Whale Watching

Whale watching off the coast of Kaikoura | Photo: Iswanto Arif

Whale Watching

New Zealand is renowned as one of the world’s best whale watching destinations, and this unique wildlife encounter should be on every visitor's itinerary. Just imagine coming eye to eye with a 15-metre Sperm Whale – it’s an experience you won’t forget!

While Kaikoura in the South Island is New Zealand’s whale watching capital, you can go whale watching all over the country. Auckland’s harbours, for example, are often visited by whales and in summer months (November to May) they abound in the Bay of Plenty. South Island locations  (besides Kaikoura) where you can get out to see the big beasties include Fiordland and Banks Peninsula. While whale watching by catamaran is hugely popular, it is by no means the only way to experience this wildlife encounter. You can also go whale watching by plane or helicopter on a flight-seeing adventure, which gives you the unique opportunity to see a whole whale head to tail.

Whale species you can encounter in New Zealand include Sperm Whales, Orca, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Pilot Whales and Southern Right Whales, and – if you’re lucky – you might just see all of these when you choose a whale watching trip in Kaikoura. The reason for Kaikoura’s immense variety of marine wildlife lies offshore: the Hikurangi Trench, which slopes to a depth of 900 metres and has a mix of cool and warm currents, making it the perfect home for squid, sharks and fish. This means that the Kaikoura coast isn’t only a seafood paradise for hungry tourists and locals, but also for whales. Altogether, 15 species of whales have been seen off Kaikoura!

Spotting these massive creatures is a truly magical experience. Lisa Bond from Whale Watch Kaikoura says: “I looked down and saw a whale swimming by in the crystal-clear water, and as he was swimming by on his side I made eye-contact with him. It was an incredible moment, one I will never forget.”

Other unforgettable marine wildlife encounters you can experience in New Zealand include bird watching (the coast is abuzz with seabirds such as the albatross, petrel and shearwater), swimming with dolphins and kayaking with seals. For those of you who’d rather stay on dry land, you can also visit an aquarium – great fun for the whole family.


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