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The Travel Well Guide

Whale watching in Kaikoura Bay

City: Kaikoura       State: Canterbury Region       Country: New Zealand
Once a whaling town, Kaikoura is now the centre of a year-round whale-watching scene, because of the year-round population of sperm whales. They stay here because the underwater geology provides them with perfect feeding grounds. Two currents of water meet here, a cold nutrient-rich one from the south and a warm one from the north which brings the nutrients up from the deep ocean to form the basis of a food chain that culminates with the whales, seals and dolphins. The other factor here is a series of extremely deep canyons offshore, in which octopus, squid and large fish lurk. The whales dive down, into the canyons to feed and then re-emerge to catch their breath, spending about three-quarters of their time underwater. Boat trips out to see them use hydrophones to listen in on their clicks to locate them and estimate when and where they will surface. Kaikoura Bay is also home to Hector's dolphins, which can be seen from the waterfront. Among the smallest dolphins, they are very rare, so being able to watch them while sipping a cup of coffee in a cafe is a real treat.Another, even closer, encounter is the boat trip out to see - and swim with - the dusky dolphins that live a few kilometres offshore in summer. When in the mood, these boisterous animals seem to enjoy showing off for their human visitors and will indulge in synchronized leaps, double somersaults and belly flops just for the sheer fun of it.

Climate | When to Visit

Visit during: January to December

Directions | How to Reach

By road from Christchurch 183 km (113 mi).

miscellaneous | Important Information

Many of the whales here are 'teenagers', exploiting the relatively easy pickings until they are mature enough to head off to the breeding grounds.

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