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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.