A Look Back Over December 2017

December has proven to be a great end to 2017 for us here at Whale Watch Kaikoura. With an abundance of marine mammals in the water, and State Highway 1 North officially re-opening and bringing Kaikōura back to the bustling wee town it once was pre-earthquake, 2018 is looking to be a great year ahead!

Throughout December we saw semi-resident Sperm Whales Tiaki, Tutu, Zeus, Koru, Manu, Mati Mati, and Aoraki. We also continued to see a number of transient Sperm Whales visiting the Kaikōura Canyon whilst on our tours.

Sperm Whale diving in New Zealand

Sperm Whale diving in New Zealand

Sperm whale diving (Photo Credit: Allan Cronin)

Kaikōura is home to Te Rohe o Te Whānau Puha, a whale sanctuary that provides a large feeding ground with a thriving eco-system. So it’s no wonder we had quite a few other visitors during December, making for some extra special tours:

1st December       2X Blue Shark

12th December    1X Mink Whale

15th December    2X Orca

15th December    3X Orca

16th December    1X Blue Whale

17th December    10X Common Dolphin

19th December    10X Orca

19th December    13X Orca

21st December     1X Blue Shark

24th December    2X Shepherd’s Beaked Whale

24th December    2X Blue Shark

31st December     7X Common Dolphins

Orca in Kaikoura, New Zealand whilst whale watching

Orca off the Coast of Kaikoura (Photo Credit: Jimmy Jay Wright)

There must be something in the water, because December was a month full of breaching Sperm Whales. This was not only a favourite whale watching moment for December, but a true highlight for the whole year! Such a behaviour is typical of the Humpback Whale species, they are known for their spectacular displays of acrobatics. It is a rare and beautiful sight to see a Sperm Whale manage such feat. On tour we watched a Sperm Whale breach 5 times in a row! Even Tiaki decided to get in on the action, and we got to see him breaching as well, propelling himself out of the water much to our delight.

As with all our tours, when time allows we take time to view other species of marine life that live off the Kaikōura Coast such as Dusky dolphins, Hectors dolphins, NZ Fur seals and the many marine bird species.

On the 30th December passengers saw a new-born Hectors dolphin amongst a small pod of adults, who looked to be no older than a week old. The folds in their skin indicate how young calves are. Hector's dolphins, indigenous to New Zealand, are among the most endangered species in the world with an estimated population of 7,000. Their scarcity and slow reproductive rate makes the sighting of this baby from such a rare species a special encounter.

 Hectors dolphins seen whilst whale watching in New Zealand

This month we also saw a small transient pod of common dolphins playing and somersaulting amongst a resident pod of dusky dolphins – amazing to see two different species share such a close bond. This mixing of the species has been observed in Kaikōura before, where duskies and commons hunt together, chasing schools of fish and herding them into balls to then feed on. The two species also mate, resulting in a hybrid offspring which features the common dolphin’s beak and the duskies stripe. The last time we saw one was late 2016, we’re still holding out to see a hybrid this summer!

75% of the world’s species of seabirds can be seen here in our little slice of paradise. Bird species we had the pleasure of seeing whilst out whale watching during December included; Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Bullers Mollymawk, Shy Mollymawk, Grey Headed Mollymawk,Cape Petrel, Giant Northern Petrel, Westland Petrel, Black Petrel, Storm Petrel, Hutton Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Bullers Shearwater, Fairy Prion, White Fronted Tern, Black Back Gull, Black Shag, Spotted Shag and the Australasian Gannet.

Wandering Albatross

Wandering Albatross (Photo Credit: Allan Cronin)

We’ll check in with you in 2018 for another marine mammal update and let you know what amazing encounters the New Year brings us. 

ROAD ACCESS UPDATE

There is a possibility of short delays with it being 30km/hour through parts of the route. The full rebuild of the highway will continue in 2018. Check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling. INLAND ROUTE 70 IS OPEN 24/7.

ORGANISED TRANSPORT OPTIONS FROM CHRISTCHURCH

Hasslefree ToursCanterbury Leisure Tours & Kaikoura Express have daily services from Christchurch to Kaikōura with a return service from Christchurch. Kiwi Experience now have the option of a day tour out of Christchurch for their travellers. Intercity Bus also provides a bus service between Christchurch and Kaikoura return.

Progress on the work being done on the roads can be found on the dedicated Kaikoura Earthquake Response page provided by the team at NZTA. This page is updated weekly on Fridays. Work is also underway on the railway network, please be aware and take care when using rail crossings.