July 4 is a celebration day for Whale Watch Kaikōura as they will be back on the water after 103-days downtime! New Zealand have had great success in their fight against the Coronavirus, and the resulting reward is social distancing elimination and the resurrection of domestic tourism. For the Māori-owned operator in Kaikōura on the South Island New Zealand, it will mean a simple start on the path to recovery and a chance to show-off the Whale encounters that Kaikōura are well renowned for.
Kaikōura is a small coastal town where the mountains meet the sea. The Seaward Kaikōura mountain ranges are the northern-most part of the Southern Alps and just 800 metres off the coast lies the submarine Kaikōura Canyon which provides a constant rich food chain for the local population of Sperm Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Albatross and Penguins. The waters are a protected marine sanctuary for the many who call Kaikōura home.
For Whale Watch Kaikōura, this marine sanctuary is their backyard. With international borders currently closed, Whale Watch Kaikōura have lost access to 85% of their regular guests. For the interim that means quieter times with domestic travellers able to admire the antics of the giant Sperm Whales in relative tranquillity. The Sperm Whales are unquestionably the stars of the marine experience. Whale Watch normally run up to 16 cruises per day year-round with a 95% sighting success rate of these amazing creatures that can measure up to 20 metres in length. Their unique marine experience also provides the opportunity to sight other whale species on their migratory route as well as the high-spirited dusky dolphins, and other residents of the marine sanctuary.
Whale Watch Kaikōura is no stranger to downtimes…. COVID-19 has seen to that. Apart from the current global pandemic, in 2016 Kaikōura experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which destroyed lives, businesses, roads, railway lines and houses. The earthquake influence extended to the sea floor which rose between .5 – 1.5 metres around the peninsula. The result was a 49-day downtime for the company whilst dredging and marina adjustments ensued.
Lucky for us that Whale Watch Kaikōura put their downtimes to good use…
In 2005 Whale Watch partnered with the Department of Conservation and the local Kaikōura community to help save the Hutton’s Shearwater seabird. It is an endangered seabird with their only breeding colonies located high in the seaward Kaikōura Ranges. Numbers of these seabirds have dramatically declined due to introduced predators and habitat loss. With only two breeding colonies remaining, a third artificial colony was established with predator-proof fencing which enabled a safe environment for ongoing breeding. These efforts have enabled the preservation and sustainable management of the endangered Hutton’s Shearwater, the world’s only alpine breeding seabird.
Whale Watch is a multiple national and international award-winning nature-based tourism company who is committed to a sustainable future both on and off the water. Formed in 1987, the company grew on the back of their quality whale watching experience and Kaikōura became an eco-tourism destination as a result. Together they partner in many conservation initiatives including the Trees for Travellers program, which encourages visitors to plant a native tree in Kaikoura and offset their carbon footprint. Whale Watch and the Kaikōura community have formed a partnership in recognition of the responsibilities of guardianship, as well as protecting and preserving the Kaikōura environment. Make sure to support Whale Watch and enjoy a cruise with them when you next visit Kaikōura and the South Island.
Good to know:
Kaikōura offers many compelling reasons to visit this stunning region. Its location is on the well-worn Alpine Pacific Touring route north of Christchurch. The town caters well for the wide range of marine & land activities. Well worth a 2-3-night stay, take time to also swim with the dolphins, kayak with the seals, wander the Kaikōura Peninsula walkway as well as trek the many short walks in the area. Most importantly, don’t forget to sample the local crayfish for which the town is so famous!