How We Operate

Designed especially for whale watching, our modern catamarans are equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise and toilets that never pollute the sea.

Vessel used for whale watch tours at Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Hamilton jet units are used for our vessel propulsion and are quieter for the marine mammals compared with other forms of vessel propulsion, they also have an internal propeller so the risk of a propeller strike with marine mammals is completely eliminated.

The main passenger cabin is enclosed and large outside decks offer great viewing and photo opportunities. Spacious air-conditioned interiors are fitted with comfortable seating while large plasma screens display our award-winning marine wildlife animations. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept well below our vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

How do we find whales?

Sperm whales produce one of the loudest noises in the animal kingdom, to us it sounds like a series of rhythmic clicks or the ticking of a clock, but this click is actually one of the most sophisticated sonar systems on the planet.

Sperm whales use this sound to hunt, navigate, communicate and they can also use it as a weapon to stun or kill its prey!

It is generally pitch black where these whales are feeding, so they are not relying on their eyesight, they use echolocation instead, echolocation as the name suggests is location by echo. They send out a series of clicks then interpret the echoes these make when they bounce back from objects. This bio-sonar locates prey with great accuracy and provides a way for these whales to ‘view’ their world.

Our hydrophones (underwater microphones) can pick up the echolocation of a sperm whale anywhere from 1 to 8 miles away. The louder the click the closer to the whale we are, so if the captain is hearing the echolocation of the sperm whale and its quite faint we may need to make a move of 1 mile or more and hopefully on the next listen that ‘click’ should be a whole lot louder indicating that we are a lot closer to that individual. It is directional so whatever direction the click is coming from is the direction the whale is in.

Captain Shannon listening out for the whales echolocation, Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Cpt Shannon listening out for the whales echolocation


Humpback song:


Sperm whale creaks:


Sperm whale rapid:


Sperm whale regular:

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.