Whale Watching in Kaikoura

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, December 11, 2011

We stay at Dolphin Lodge in Kaikoura, a nice little hostel on top of the hill overlooking the bay at Kaikoura. The view over Kaikoura is one I would never tire of looking at – turquoise blue sea with snow capped mountains towering over the very small town.

We had been planning what to do in Kaikoura for a few weeks now (everyday while working) and the first thing we had promised ourselves was fish and chips.  We started a four hour peninsula walk in search of a guide book recommended seafood bbq van.  Lucky for us it was located 45 minutes into the walk and, even better, it was open (not very trusting of New Zeland open hours given that shops seem to close at prime shopping times e.g. Saturday afternoon).  This van was a bit more upmarket than we expected – our dishes came with a choice of bread or rice, no chips.  Jonny tried the local fish (elephant fish) and I went for scallops, both were very tasty and would never guess that they came from what looks like a burger van!   

We continue towards our Peninsula walk in search of fur seals that are known to hang out at the start of the walk.  Today there is only one seal that we can see but he seems to know it as he puts a good show on for the tourists rolling about on the beach and stretching out.  The walk takes along the headland up above the beaches for views out over the sea and beside farmland as well. A really nice walk to see the surrounding area of Kaikoura.    

The next day's activity is what we’re really here to do - whale watching.  A little bit disconcerting when we turn up at the office and the screen say severe sea sickness warning – two metre swell and 30 knots.  Not knowing what that means and being pretty determined to go whale watching, I pop a herbal remedy for sea sickness from the gift shop and off we go.  It didn’t work.  Even heading out to open sea I knew today was not going to be a good day as the boat flew over some of the waves and hit the bottom of others.  But pretty early on we had tracked down a whale that was on the surface and were flying across the waves to try and see it before it leaves the surface.  We’re looking for the resident sperm whales that reside off the coast of Kaikoura all year round.  Kaikoura has an underwater canyon just off the coast which means the sea gets very deep, very quickly and something to do with where the warm water meets the cold water means whales like to feed here.  Anyway, we spot the spray from the whales’s blowhole and the boat sidles up to whale.  We chug along beside it, while the whale goes about its daily business oblivious.  A true highlight of the trip just to be watching these massive creatures so close – he was definitely bigger than the boat.  Then we see him arch his back to go under and this is what we’re waiting for – the tail flips up to say goodbye and we have all our photo moments for the outing.  So what will I do for the rest of the trip – test paper bags out and I can confirm they were all very well made with no leakage.  I didn’t see much of Jonny on the trip as he was fine and off taking photos (upstairs, hanging on to the rails trying to get a good shot!) while I was hovering near the back of the boat with my bags and the very many other people who were also not feeling the best.  But on our outing we saw four whales in total, all pretty close to the boat and so considering the average is two, I think we did pretty well and it was worth it.

In the afternoon we recover from the boat trip with some time in the hot pool, every hostel seems to have one which is a welcome addition.  And later on we’re treated to a colourful sunset and a very vibrant rainbow all at the same time which sends Jonny running up the hill by the hostel, camera in hand, to get some good photos – as you can see it was worth it!
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