A Day Whale Watching in Kaikoura

When you meet a tourists visiting New Zealand and they've been to Kaikoura, there's a pretty high chance that they've done either the Whale Watch tour or the Swimming with the Dolphins, or sometimes both. I've spent quite a lot of time there over the years but have always considered it to be just for tourists. Last weekend I decided to see what the fuss was about. We booked the 6.45 trip, assuming that it would be less windy at dawn. We arrived at the office just near the railway station and as you can see the sea was pretty flat! There was however, a sea sickness warning for our trip which was shown on the board at the reception desk. Whale Watch Car ParkWe paid the fare ($145/adult and $60/child) then another $3 per person for optional sea sickness tablets and proceeded to the waiting area where we are shown the safety video which latest for around 5 minutes and which tells you what to do in an emergency. Watching the safety video We then piled onto the bus for departure to South Bay, an 8 minute drive away to the South Bay Marine where the boats are waiting. We were met by our local guide Rangi, whose family setup the Whale Watching Tours in 1987. As we had our two boys with us aged 4 and 5, we were ushered up to the front to board the boat first. Very cool. They also mentioned on the loud speaker during the tip for everyone to be careful of the two boys when viewing the whales. Also, very cool guys and this was appreciated. Going on the boat Rangi mentioned that the best place was at the back of the boat to avoid sea sickness, so we filed in and headed straight to the back. The boat was nice and clean and complete with plenty of sea sickness bags in the front pocket. Perhaps this was a sign of things to come. IMG_6032We headed out of South Bay toward the open ocean. The trip was a little bumpy as the announcer informed us about the species of whales we would likely see (Humpback and Sprem whales) and also about the  Hikurangi trench. After about 15 minutes we arrived at the first stop, where they put down a listening device to try and pick up the sound of nearby whales. Exciting stuff! IMG_6044 They announced that we'd picked up a sound of a nearby whale, so we were asked to quickly come inside the boat and prepare for the trip toward the whale. I overheard there was a 95% success rate with seeing whales when you go out on a trip, on the off chance you don't see anything I believe you get some sort of a refund. No refund was required for us and after around 5 minutes ride we stopped and everyone piled out onto the lower deck to see their first glimpse of a whale. It's amazing to see how many people are taking photos with their smart phones rather than DSLR's. The quality of cameras in the iPhone 6's are pretty amazing these days (these resized photos were originally taken with an iPhone 6).IMG_6088 Here is the moment the whale started his descent back down into the deep ocean and what we'd all come to see. Despite being a little cloudy from lack of sleep and a little sea sick, the sight of a whale up close was a pretty cool experience and a great connection with nature. That wasn't all though. Whale KaikouraAs we were heading back, we made a stop off amongst a massive family of dolphins. This was a real bonus to seeing the whale. On a side note, it would be interesting to find out how many smart phones are sitting at the bottom of the ocean off Kaikoura! DolphinsThe trip was a success having seen whales, dolphins and an albatross. We arrived back at around 10.30am and caught the bus back to the 'whale way station'. Having done the trip, I can now see why this trip is so well known experience for many tourists. Regardless of if you do the Whale Watch or Swimming with the Dolphins tour, Kaikoura is a must for anyone visiting the South Island. [mc4wp_form] Blog post by Adam Hutchinson