Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wildlife of the Kaikoura Peninsula, Part 2

Much of Kaikoura’s wildlife lives in the water. This means you have to go offshore to see it, so we booked ourselves onto a whalewatching tour. We equipped ourselves with some “all natural” sea-sickness pills (surprisingly effective) and braced ourselves for a bumpy ride.

Whales (Almost) Guaranteed


Whale Watch Kaikoura reckon that they have a 95% success rate in spotting whales (in fact they are so confident that they offer a partial refund if no whales are sighted!). They say that on an average trip you will see two whales: anything more is a bonus.

We were lucky on two counts. Firstly, with the weather. It was brilliantly sunny with just a little bit of cloud hovering over the coastal mountains, meaning that the boat didn’t toss about too much. And, secondly, because it was not very long before we saw our first whale. Our guide, Ellie, gave us a running commentary as we went. “It’s a sperm whale,” she said. “But it’s a bit lazy and it’s not going to dive for us.”

Sperm whale at Kaikoura, New Zealand
A sperm whale prepares to dive
She went on to explain that sperm whales were resident here all through the year but other varieties, including blue whales, visited at other times. Today we would only see sperm whales, and they would all be males (“it’s too cold for the females”). As if on cue, another one appeared and obligingly did a great dive for us, its tail swishing in the air.

Sperm whale at Kaikoura, New Zealand
The tail is the last to disappear
Another whale rose to the surface, and then another. “Look with your eyes as well as the camera,” said Ellie. By the time the fifth whale was sighted I heeded her words, and put the camera away. I was rewarded with a magnificent view of the fluke.

Albatrosses and More


But it is not just whales. According to a local tourist publication, Kaikoura is the best place in the world to see seabirds. Dozens of shearwaters were flying above the surface of the water, then from the corner of my eye I spotted a bird with an enormous wing span. Distracted by the whales, I missed that one but another appeared, bobbing up and down on the water like a farmyard duck. It was a wandering albatross, the first I had ever seen.

Wandering albatross, Kaikoura, New Zealand
A wandering albatross sits on the water
We came back past Barney's Rock, where whalers of old kept a lookout for whales. Today it is home to a colony of New Zealand blue seals, and we saw a number of pups playing on the rock.

New Zealand blue seal, Kaikoura
There is a colony of New Zealand blue seals on Barney's Rock
The boat made a sudden diversion, then stopped. A pod of splendid black and white dolphins was playing around the boat. They swam, and dived, and flipped, showing off to their audience. They moved too fast for good photographs, so I allowed myself just to enjoy watching them.

Dolphin at Kaikoura, New Zealand
The dolphins move too fast to capture their antics!
We had seen five whales, seals, dolphins, albatrosses and shearwaters. All in all, a successful trip!

18 comments:

  1. This is wonderful Karen! Whales are my favorite animals and I also saw a sperm whale in Kaikoura!!! I'm so happy you had a nice weather!

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    1. Thanks! Glad you managed to see one too, they are magnificent animals.

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  2. How fun! You had a fascinating tour and I LOVE the pics.

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    1. Thanks! It was certainly fascinating.

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  3. Oh wow you were so lucky! Or maybe not if the percentage of seeing them is 95% :) But still what a great experience :)

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    1. Well, you always worry that you might be in the 5% that don't see anything. So I suppose we were lucky :)

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  4. Great post Karen! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Yes, I felt very lucky to see so many whales!

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  6. Kaikoura looks like a great place to see waterlife. I've never seen an albatross. I was surprised by your picture. It looks more innocuous than its metaphorical reputation as an onerous burden.

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    1. I was a bit taken aback when I first saw the albatross - it looked a bit like a giant duck! But when it took to the air you could see how it might have got its reputation.

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  7. What a magical and perfect day! Whales, dolphins, albatross, etc. Sounds like a dream come true and your photos are beautiful!

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    1. Thanks - it certainly felt like a dream come true as I had never expected to see so many animals (and birds) all on one trip.

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  8. You did get some beautiful photos. I bet you had a blast! The photo of the seal is so incredibly adorable!

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