Kaikoura Sea Life
Due to the nutrients rich waters off the coast as the surrounding mountains meet the sea, Kaikoura supports a vast myriad marine life. Kaikoura is world renowned as one of the best places in the world for whale watching or other types of marine animals’ encounters which includes snorkeling with dolphins (Kaikoura is one of the top places to snorkel in the world. Find out the other 9 other best places to snorkel in the world in the link here) and swimming with seals etc.
Particularly famous in Kaikoura, are the gentle giant sperm whales, the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world called the Hector’s dolphins, the lovely energetic Dusky dolphins, as well as, the largest seabirds, Albatross. They are permanent residents of this area, you may be able to spot all of them all year round, if you are in luck.
Types of whales that can be found at Kaikoura
Kaikoura is recognized as one of the best places for Whale Watching. Different types of whales either dwell or pass through here.
Giant Sperm whales
Sperm whales, its appearance, is as it sounds like. It looks like a sperm with a big head connected to a relatively smaller tail. Sperm whales are massive in size and they are the largest predator in the world.
In addition to the sperm whales which is the star in Kaikoura as it can be usually found on all seasons, there is a chance that you may also spot some other migrating whales in Kaikoura.
Humpback whales are commonly found during the period of June to August (Winter months) as they migrate northwards from the Antarctics to the warmer tropics area to mate and give birth. (I saw one on end November though, in a spring transitioning to Summer period). They are famous for their signature flipping and tail-slapping motions as they come up to the surface to breach and dive down back into the sea for feeding.
Blue whale is the largest animal ever lived on Earth! The full length of its body is equivalent to the height of a 8 story building. It has a heart of the size of car and a brain twice the size of an African elephant. Imagine that!
Unfortunately, in the southern hemisphere, there is only a small number of 2000 blue whales left due to the hunting practice of humans.
Blue whale, also one of the migrating whales, may be more likely to be seen from March to April or August to September.
Minke Whale, Pygmy Sperm Whale, Southern Right Whale, Beaked Whale
The rest of the mentioned migratory whales are occasional visitors to Kaikoura.
Dolphins at Kaikoura
In Kaikoura, you can meet these very adorable Dusky Dolphins. These blueish grey dolphins with white bellies only reside in the southern hemisphere. You can interact and have fun swimming with the dusky dolphins like us. It’s absolutely amazing!
There may be a chance you may spot these rarest and smallest dolphins in the world. They are more commonly found in Akaroa actually. Akaroa is merely about 4 hours drive away from Kaikoura and its also located at the east coast of South New Zealand. Akaroa offers swimming with Hector’s dolphins tour too. Alternatively, you can opt for kayaking at the Fleas’ Bay to search for the Hector’s dolphins and seals.
Killer whale, Orca
Orca, or called Killer whales may be spotted from December to March. Don’t be mistaken by its misleading name and its rather cute appearance. Orcas do actually belongs to the dolphin family group. Even though so, they are probably not as gentle and friendly as they may seem. They are the largest of dolphins. And, surprisingly they are in fact at the top of the food chain, defeating even killer sharks sometimes.
At Kaikoura, from November to March, there is a chance to find pods of Orcas.
Albatross at Kaikoura
Albatross are the biggest of flying seabirds and their diet consists of squid, fish and krill. Out of the 22 species of albatross, 86% of the species are of different levels of being endangered.
Seals at Kaikoura
Seals are efficient swimmers despite its fat and clumsy body which protects them from extreme cold. They have a streamlined body which allows it to swim very swiftly with much less resistance. They can dive deep into the ocean in search of food. They, however, give birth on land, or otherwise, their pups would drown. In Kaikoura, you can take a stroll down the Ohau Waterfall Walk to observe the baby pups playing with each other socially under the waterfall while their mothers feeding at sea. The best time to visit is winter where hundreds of fur seal pups travel up the stream to the waterfall. And, probably, spring to summer is not the right time as we were not fortunate enough to find any pup.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a seal swimming tour too if you don’t mind the unique odor they emit.