A Look Back Over January 2018

What an epic start to 2018 we have had here at Whale Watch Kaikoura, the amount and variety of marine life out in the Canyon that we have encountered has been remarkable. Throughout January we saw semi-resident Sperm Whales Manu, Tiaki, Koru, Mati Mati and Aoraki. We also continued to see a number of transient Sperm Whales visiting the Kaikōura Canyon whilst on our tours.

We’ve seen some unusual behaviour from Sperm whales this month, with a couple breaching and tail-slapping – not common behaviour from Sperm whales at all. There are a number of reasons for a whale to breach,  it could be anything from communication, warnings of danger to them simply just being itchy.

Sperm whale breaching

Sperm whale breaching (Credit: Jimmy Jay Wright)

It seems as though the Summer sun has been wearing Aoraki out, either that or he’s been putting in some serious diving efforts in the hunt for his dinner lately. During one week of January he was mostly seen snoozing. There’s something so peaceful about floating on the water with a giant sound asleep next to you. One tour approached him as he was sleeping horizontal on the surface, but once getting closer, he quickly decided to change his sleeping arrangements to vertical with just his head bobbing out of the water. This was absolutely incredible to see, especially him sleeping vertically, and a sight not typically seen on our tours.

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 January, making for some extra special tours:

1st January                5X Orca

1st January                30X Common dolphin

2nd January               40X Common dolphin

2nd January               1X Humpback whale

2nd January               2X Shepherd’s Beaked whale

4th January                1X Humpback whale

4th January                16X Common dolphin

8th January                1X Fin whale

9th January                2X Blue whale

10th January             6X Orca

12th January             7X Common dolphin

14th January             40X Common dolphin

16th January             60X Common dolphin

17th January             10X Common dolphins

17th January             1X Humpback whale

18th January             20X Common dolphins

19th January             8X Orca

20th January             4X Common dolphin

20th January             1X Humpback whale

21st January              15X Common dolphin

21st January              1X Blue whale

21st January              1X Fin whale

21st January              1X Humpback whale

22nd January             15X Common dolphin

23rd January             1X Humpback whale

23rd January             50X Common dolphin

24th January             50X Common dolphin

25th January             1X Humpback whale

26th January             1X Humpback whale

26th January             20X Common dolphin

27th January             1X Humpback whale

28th January             10X Common dolphin

28th January             6X Orca

29th January             8X Orca

30th January             20X Common dolphin

31st January              5X Blue whale

31st January              2X Fin whale

As you can see, we had a lot of visitors during January! One of our highlights from this month was watching a Humpback whale lunge feeding which is not common behaviour here. We could sit out on the water and watch this all day if it were possible. Watching these acrobatic and inquisitive whales feeding in their natural habitat is beautiful to watch, there’s no better sight then a whale free in the wild.

Humpback whale lunge feeding

Humpback whale lunge feeding (Credit: Heleen Middel)

The amount of Blue whales and Fin whales that we have been seeing is truly incredible, especially on the 31st of January when we sighted 5 Blue whales and 2 Fin whales! This is nearly unheard of for Blue whales to travel in such large numbers, they are known to be solitary travellers and most of our previous viewings are only ever 1 -2 Blue whales at a time. Blues, dubbed the Queen of the Ocean due to the females being the largest animals ever to exist in the animal kingdom, and Fins, the second largest animal on earth, are some of the most magnificent creatures to encounter. Can you imagine encountering 7 of the largest animals of the planet, that dwarf the boat you are standing on? This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for our passengers, lucky they hung around for the entire day so the majority of the days’ tours were able to experience such a breath-taking moment.

Blue whale (Credit: Jimmy Jay Wright)

These peaceful creatures were severely impacted by commercial whaling. With nearly 750,000 Fin whales killed in the Southern hemisphere alone throughout the 1900’s. It is so encouraging to see such large numbers of both Blue and Fin whales this month, and we hope that it is a sign of their rejuvenating population.

Fin whale off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand

Fin whale (Credit: Tehlia Richardson)

Orca seem to be loving Kaikōura this Summer, we’ve seen so many family pods this month and have been privileged to witness them so close that it has been breath-taking. Who else gets chills when they see large fins cutting through the ocean’s surface? We sure do get excited when we see the smaller fins, as this indicates there’s a young Orca amongst the pod!

Orca family pod in New Zealand

Orca family pod (Credit: Tehlia Richardson)

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, pods of which were mixed in and socialising with pods of Common dolphins, Hectors dolphins, NZ Fur seals and the many marine bird species.

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 January included; Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross,Bullers Mollymawk,Shy Mollymawk,Grey Headed Mollymawk, Black Browed Mollymawk, Cape Petrel,Giant Northern Petrel,Westland Petrel,Grey Petrel, White Chinned 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 (Credit: Allan Cronin)

We’ll check in with you at the end of February for another marine mammal update and let you know what amazing encounters the month brings us. 

Sperm whale diving (Credit: Allan Cronin)

State Highway 1 both North & South of Kaikōura

& Inland Road Route 70 between Christchurch (via Waiau) to Kaikōura is OPEN 24/7.

Please drive to the conditions & visit nzta.govt.nz/p2c for more information.