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NZ - whale watching

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific NZ - whale watching

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1. Posted by Purdy (Travel Guru 3546 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Can anyone let me know about whale watching - l know you can do it in NZ - but where and when is the best time of year to do it? We should be there in Dec/Jan.



2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5235 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Kaikoura (about three hours north of Christchurch on the East Coast of the South Island). The town is practically built upon whale-watching. (it's on a peninsula which leads straight to a really deep trough that the whales follow for food). My Lonely Planet says October till August for whales, and December till March for Orcas (although I didn't see any of those when I was there in lake January), so you should be spot on.
Just know that Dec/Jan will be the busiest time of the year, so be certain to book accommodation (and the whale-watching trip itself) well in advance.
While at Kaikoura, I also recommend doing the peninsula walkway, which takes you right up to several fur seal colonies. (Actually, when I did that near high tide, I had to turn back halfway through, as this big seal was completely blocking the path at its narrowest point.) :)

3. Posted by HaadRinGuide (Respected Member 550 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Make sure you stay in Kaikoura for a few days as well, as the whale-watching trips often get cancelled due to the weather. I was there for 4 days and it got cancelled every day until the last day when I finally got to go whale watching.

To be honest though, it wasn't that exciting. It was okay but the whales don't actually do much. I personally found dolphins and seals more interesting.

Also, I would totally recommend having a flying lesson whilst in Kaikoura. I think I paid something like NZ$95 (with a voucher) for a half hour lesson and it was a complete buzz.

4. Posted by wyre83 (Budding Member 47 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I thought the whale watching in Kaikoura was overrated, only saw like two whales and they were quite far away. But I think that may have been a bad time of year to go (october???)
I have heard it can be amazing though so don't let me put you off!

I actually really enjoyed whale watching in the Bay of Island up north. Saw alot of Orca's which come right up to your boat and there are alot of dolphins keeping you entertained also!!

5. Posted by Chix (Full Member 114 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I actually chose to go Dolphin (rather than Whale watching) in Kaikoura and had a fab time. I'd agree with the comments that if you've got your heart set on it, make sure you spend a few days there - our trip was nearly cancelled due to rough seas. Also, I'd recommend the dolphin watch because we spent a good couple of hours watching them 'surf' on the front of our boat, then we stopped and watched a good 30-40 of them jumping out of the water around us.....whereas the Whale watchers only got a glimpse or two of the Whales.

6. Posted by danny78 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I had a friend that worked in Kaikora for a couple of months and told me that the whales are residents there they are all single male sperm whales. Apparently dont go there expecting the discovery channel everyone worked hard to give everyone the best trip available bare in mind this is nature and these are'nt trained animal's.
She also went on both the whale watching trips the boat and helicopter and said the heli was better even though it was about $60 more expensive because you could see right into the water and see the whole length of the whale.
hope this help's safe travel's

7. Posted by Purdy (Travel Guru 3546 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Im due to stay in Kaikoura for 4 nights - although we have a car hired so if we strike it lucky and get whale watching first go then we can go off and explore the area! I think we may go for the helicopter tour - and enjoy the whole hog - if its good may do both boat and helicopter!! Just the thought of seeing a glimpse of a whale is enough for me - they are magnificent creatures!

Thanks for all the advice! (Did l really post this so long ago now!!)

[ Edit: Had to correct my typos! ]

8. Posted by rgl (Budding Member 2 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Can anyone tell me what time of day it is best to go on a whale watching boat trip - early morning, late morning, afternoon?

Many thanks -


9. Posted by Purdy (Travel Guru 3546 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I went whale watching in January and it was at 10am - we were lucky to get out - the fog was quite bad so the rest of the trips through out the day was cancelled.

I don think there is a BEST time as such it can be very weather dependent!

Make sure you are prepared for open water - l was VERY seasick - saw 1 whale got good photos but l dont know if it was worth the sea sickness to be honest!

BTW - Kaikoura is a lovely town l loved it and had the best fish n chips there too!


10. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3915 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I also thought the whale watching in Kaikoura was overrated. Maybe I was just unlucky; but I thought to pay $125 (if i remember rightly) for just over 2 hours and to not see that much of them was very overpriced. I actually thought the albatross that we saw were more amazing than what we saw of the whales.