Kaikoura is a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located on State Highway 1,180 km north of Christchurch. Kaikoura has now become a popular tourist destination, mainly for whale watching and swimming with or near dolphins. Whale Watch Kaikoura began operating in 1987 with a 6 metre boat and it is also done by air. It takes around 100,000 visitors out by boat annually.
Take part in New Zealand’s best whale watching tour offering an exciting up-close encounter with the world’s largest toothed predator, the Giant Sperm Whale! On this unique 2.5 hour cruise you may also encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales. Kaikoura often hosts Orca – and is home to the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin – Hector’s dolphin. Kaikoura also attracts the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including 13 species of Albatross, 14 varieties of Petrels and 7 types of Shearwater.
You may choose to spot the Whales by scenic flight. You’ll get the best view from above and experience the beauty and wonder of Kaikoura’s marine wildlife. Slowly orbit around nature’s largest animals and get unobstructed views of these amazing creatures. These animals can reach an impressive 18 metres in length and weigh up to 60 tonnes!
This whale watching tour has a 95% success rate of sighting the Giant Sperm Whale, and a great guarantee. If you do not see a whale you’ll be refunded 80% of your fare. Please click here to see more details about Whale Watch Kaikoura.
About the Sperm Whales
Sperm whales can be viewed off the Kaikoura coastline all year round. The Giant Sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales and the fourth largest of all the Great Whales. Male Sperm whales grow to a length of 15-20 metres and can weigh anywhere between 40-60 tonnes. Female Sperm whales are roughly 30-40% smaller than the males, growing to around 12 metres. These sperm whales have wrinkly skin and a large, rather square head that makes up one third of their body length. If you look hard and close enough, you’ll realize that they do have big heads! They are purplish-brown or dark grey in colour, with white underneath. They can live for over 70 years.
The main focus of your tour is to locate and view the Giant Sperm whale. An average between 1 to 2 whale sightings can be spotted per tour due to the length of time the whales can stay submerged. In Kaikoura, the Sperm whale’s dive time ranges between 40-60 minutes. The Sperm whales primarily viewed off the coastline are all males. The whales form loose pods, keeping several miles between each other, so viewing any more than 1 to 2 whales per trip is a real bonus.
A boat trip is the most popular and the cheapest option. Price for per adult is approximately $150 NZD and $60 NZD for per child.
At present 30 and 40 minute flights by small planes are available. The plane will circle around 150 meters when they spot the whales. It’s much shorter, but the flight tours are not subject to the sea conditions whilst boat trips can be cancelled due to rough sea. Flight price for per adult is between $150-$180 NZD.
If you join the vessal tour, you need to meet at Whale Watch Kaikoura, the Whaleway Station Rd, Whaleway Road, Kaikoura 7340, New Zealand. It takes approximately 2.5 hour scenic drive north of Christchurch and there is free parking available.
If you choose the flight tour, you need to meet at Kaikoura Airport, Main South Rd, Kaikoura. Free transfers are available to and from Kaikoura Airport. Please contact us to confirm the availability of these transfers.
Designed specially for whale watching, the modern catamarans are equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise and toilets that never pollute the sea. 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 the award-winning marine wildlife animations. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept well below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.
Whale Watching Seasons
During the colder season from May to October migrating whales are spotted; southern right whales, humpback whales, pilot whales and sometimes even blue whales. During spring and summer, you may see pods of orcas and sometimes blue whales as well.
The temperature is pleasant from November to March often around 20°C during the day. Night temperature is usually around 10°C. From April to October, the temperature is on average above 10°C up to 16°C. Significant rainfall can happen throughout the year. The wettest months occur from March to August. Due to the forecast tours can get canceled. Often the wind increase in the afternoon, and it’s pretty rough on the boat. If you normally suffer from motion sickness, we recommend you take precautions prior to departure from the office. Or you can choose to buy medicine from the Whale Watch Retail shop.
Plan your trip in the right season or you might miss the chance to catch whales even if you’re out “camping” for them for a long time. We recommend you dress warmly and wear flat shoes If you’re visiting during the winter months (June, July, August). If you wish to spend time on the outside decks of the vessels you may need light waterproof clothing depending on the sea conditions. Remember to check the weather forecast in order to plan your clothes. Bring a good camera, in order to zoom in to capture and observe the whales from a closed-up angle. Bring some snacks and drinks in case you get hungry or bored while waiting for the whales to appear.
If you go in the right season, during winter months of June, July and August, where migrating species like humpback whales visit, you might be fortunate enough to catch their spectacular displays of spyhopping, breaching, lobtailing and flipper slapping. Other species such as blue whales, southern right whales, minke whales, pygmy sperm whales and beaked whales might pass by Kaikoura but they are a really rare sight.