When is the best time to come whale watching?

A question I get asked often is “When is the best time to come whale watching?” My first answer would be “Every day is a good day to come whale watching” after all we have sperm whale feeding off our coastline all year round. It is a bachelor pad of male sperm whales that come here to feed upon the abundance of food which is found in the nutrient rich waters of the Kaikōura Canyon.

 Kaikoura NZ semi-resident sperm whale tail, Tiaki

The weather in New Zealand is often best during the months of October – March, so if you prefer the warmer kind of days then whale watching during the NZ summer is a good bet.  During these months’ we most commonly have the opportunity to view pods of Orca as they pass by, usually in pods of between 6-12 individuals 2 or 3 times a month.

 Pod of Orca off the Kaikoura coast, New Zealand

My second answer is for people who don’t mind weather that is a bit cooler. As mentioned the sperm whales are here all year round, but did you know that Kaikōura is also visited by many other migrating whales, like the humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales. 

During the months of June – August for instance humpback whales leave the cool Antarctic waters for the winter period and head further north to the warmer tropical waters of places like Tonga and Australia, stopping off in Kaikōura on their way for a rest before continuing on their huge journey.

 A playful humpback whale leaping from the water at Kaikoura, NZ

For the best opportunity for not only seeing sperm whales but also migrating whales June to August in my option the best time to come whale watching.  An added bonus being the beautiful view from out at sea of the Kaikōura ranges covered in snow and also the wonderful crisp blue sky winters days we can experience in Kaikōura during winter.

 Kaikōura ranges covered in snow against a crisp blue sky

Either way (if the weather plays the game) every day is a good day to come whale watching. We run tours all year long and have a 95% success rate in seeing whales and if for some reason we are unable to locate a whale during the tour we give our passengers 80% of their money back! 

Guests watching a whale surfacing the water at Kaikoura

This week Kaikōura really lived up to its reputation of being a marine mecca, with a wide variety of marine mammals sighted in abundance on our tours! We saw a lot of large transient Sperm Whales visiting our Coast to indulge in the nutrient rich waters of the Hikurangi Trench, as well as Spotty Tail! A semi-residential Sperm Whale who we’ve been seeing for a while now.

We’ve also seen a great number of Pilot Whales over the week, on Tuesday we saw 50+ and then on Thursday we saw 150+! A couple of stray Humpback Whales have also been hanging around Kaikōura, which we don’t usually get to see in November, but we’re guessing they’re just enjoying the Kaikōura Canyon too much to leave!

Dolphin varieties we saw on our tours included the usual suspects, the acrobatic Duskies and endangered Hectors, and this week we saw a pod of 20+ Bottlenose. As well as seeing the smallest of the dolphin species, the Hector, we also spotted the largest – the Orca. That makes two weeks in a row of Orca sighting!

On Tuesday, the 14th of November which marked exactly 1 year on from when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck which raised our coastline and left our boats on dry land, we celebrated our official marina opening. Thank you to everyone’s support and well wishes over the past year, each word of encouragement has been truly appreciated.

ROAD ACCESS UPDATE

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

KAIKOURA BUSINESS UPDATE

Kaikōura is open for business. For latest updates on accommodation, restaurant and retail information please contact the team at the Kaikōura I-Site who will be able to help you find what suits your needs during your stay in Kaikōura. 

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 (along with harbour repairs) 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.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.