Whale Watch Kaikoura
3rd of August, 2018
When Whale Watch day arrived on our South Island Road Trip, I was so excited. The anticipation and realisation that I was probably going to see a whale or two blew my mind. Before our marine adventure, we drove up to a beautiful viewing point looking down over the stunning Kaikōura peninsula. Even the countryside looked like a whale to me, with the thin strip of land in the foreground and the mountain range lifting up like the whale’s tail.
I had a good feeling about our day and was happy to be visiting Kaikōura, New Zealand’s first Whale and Seal Sanctuaries and deepest Marine Reserve.
We arrived at Whale Watch and were invited to watch a video. There was plenty of information about why the whales can be found in this specific area, what other marine life we would see and all about the boats and crew who would be guiding us. Geoff, our guide, my hubby had already told us that when he started in tourism Whale Watch Kaikōura was operated from a tractor and a couple of small dingy type boats, wow how times have changed! Whale watch is owned and operated by the indigenous Ngāti Kuri people of Kaikōura, a Māori sub-tribe of the South Island’s larger Ngāi Tahu Tribe. There is definitely something spiritual about the whole experience which isn’t surprising when you consider Paikea and Tohorā still form the symbolic centre of Whale Watch. They represent the spiritual bond between the human world and the natural world and speak of the possibilities that reveal themselves when the world of nature is revered rather than exploited. I certainly felt the respect for the natural habitat and environment.
Thankfully the weather was in our favour and we were invited to board a bus which took us to the marina where we boarded our vessel. No longer dingys Whale Watch now own five modern catamarans all equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise and toilets that never pollute the sea.
Once on board, the knowledgeable guides explained what was going happen on our tour. Importantly they advised us how to deal with seasickness, something from which I am unfortunately quite prone! We learnt that as the vessel was moving we would stay seated down below, and once the experienced and awesome team had managed to locate a whale we would be invited upstairs to the viewing deck. This really adds to the excitement of the experience and after a while, we were advised that the first whale had been located and that we were allowed to leave our seats and go upstairs as fast but as safely as possible! Naturally, everyone on the boat wants to be in the best place upstairs and you could feel the anticipation in the air as we all went upstairs for the first time. And there was our first whale. It looked like a great big tree trunk floating on the sea, so peaceful and calm. Suddenly a great stream of water flew up in the air, a natural sound, but unfamiliar, it was amazing. We watched and watched and the whale kept blowing up great streams of water and then maybe after about 5 minutes of watching he dived.
This is my friends’ picture, Mo took it on her mobile phone, wow. Simply remarkable, beautiful, unique, breath-taking, awe-inspiring nature. The absolute feeling of wonder and amazement is not possible for me to describe here in my blog, perhaps I am not eloquent enough or perhaps it is just simply something you must experience for yourself if you are lucky enough to find your self in the South Island of New Zealand. To see such huge and graceful creatures in their natural habitat is a true blessing.
We were advised that we should be lucky enough to spot 1 or 2 whales and sure enough, the crew announced that a second whale had been spotted about a 5-minute ride away. We went downstairs, and the boat zoomed off to the next whale. On arrival they announced we could leave our seats and go upstairs as quickly and safely as possible, so up we all got again. We watched again in amazement as the whale prepared to dive.
The sea was quite calm but it was just starting to get a little rocky, side to side. The crew announced that we were lucky as a third whale had been spotted. Familiar with the routine we went downstairs so the boat could navigate to the next whale. When we arrived we all duly went upstairs and spotted our next floating whale. We watched and we watched, waited and waited, and then after about 10 minutes, the crew member announced that we had come across “sleepy head” the sleeping whale! They decided that there would be no action here and started to head back to shore, when another sighting came in and off we raced again!
We saw whale number 4 and then whale number 5, fabulous. Although saying that my seasickness had started to kick in and a little part of me was thinking, enough already we’ve seen 2 whales shouldn’t we be going back now! As we cruised back to shore a pod of dolphins swam playfully alongside us, we were also lucky enough to see playful albatross birds swopping over the whales.
Once the trip was over we were on a natural high. We decided to explore the pretty town of Kaikōura where all things surprisingly are about the whale!
Real New Zealand Tours highly recommend this trip, in fact, we would almost insist all our clients take this amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most beautiful marine creatures on our Earth!