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Whale watching in Kaikoura - Travel diary New Zealand day 10

Marlborough -> Kaikoura -> Christchurch

Today came the day we had longed for ever since we booked this trip! The day we would (hopefully) see whales! Kaikoura on the north-east coast of the South Island is one of the world's most famous whale watching locations. The reason there are so many whales here is Kaikoura's unique underwater gorge. Just 2 kilometers outside the rocky coast is the edge of a continental plate, which plunges steeply into the dark sea to a depth of several kilometers. At the same time that the deep-sea currents bring up nutrients from the depths to the smaller fish on the sea surface, the small fish also attract large fish. Primarily sperm whales and dolphins are found here, but sometimes the occasional blue whale and killer whale swim past.

After an à la carte breakfast at the hotel in Marlborough, we headed for the coast. From winding our way round the fertile vineyards of Marlborough, we now arrive at a barren and steep coast, fringed with great rocks and stones.

We had booked the 12:15 boat from Kaikoura, so we had plenty of time to stop along the way and enjoy the sea breezes and also to visit the large seal colony that lives permanently at Oahu Point Seal Colony. The seal colony is not shy, but is located right on State highway 1. It was just a matter of stopping the car, taking a deep breath and following the smell to find the seals. For goodness sake, they definitely didn't smell, even though they were at a safe distance from us! Hundreds of animals were lying on the rocks and fermenting and then we probably only saw a fraction of the seals that live here, the vast majority seemed to prefer rolling around in the water. Young, old and round. All the seals seemed to enjoy themselves here! Near the seal colony is a waterfall where baby seals usually play around in the fresh water, but to prevent all tourists from disturbing the seals, the waterfall has been closed to visitors. I can only imagine how cute the cubs must be playing together in the shallow water!

Oahu Point Seal Colony
Oahu Point Seal Colony

Well arrived in kaikoura we needed to fix lunch. Our boat was still not confirmed due to a change in weather and the lunch cafe at the polling station was the only place nearby. As it was a bank holiday and Boxing Day, there was also no hot food today, so it really wasn't a gourmet lunch. But a little something in the stomach was needed before departure, going out on the waves without having eaten is not good for the mood for any of us.

kaikoura

Collection for departure! A safety briefing film later, we were on our way to the catamaran as a group. The boat was some distance away, so we had to take a bus to the port. Once there, we jumped in and sat down. Now it went away. Not too bumpy ride luckily, but unfortunately the weather wasn't the best today. So lucky that we brought both fleece sweaters and windbreakers, because they were really needed out at sea!

kaikoura

In order to find the whales, the captain was constantly in contact with an aircraft circling the area. Periodically he ran out of his cabin and listened with his hydrophone to hear where the whales were. He listened and listened and then ran into his cab to push the throttle a little further. And finally, we finally saw the first big sperm whale lying at the surface, spouting water and resting. What a beautiful sight and what an interesting choice the sperm whale is! Compared to other whales, the sperm whale has a disproportionately large and clumsy head, with a jaw that looks like a narrow beak. Why? Nobody knows that. In the sperm whale's head is a large organ with oil, which still eludes scientists. Is it so that the whales can stay under the surface longer? So that they can dive deeper? Or is it an important component of the whale's sonar? Sperm whales are very difficult to study, as they spend large parts of their lives at a depth of several thousand meters. There in the depths, whales smash giant octopuses and create sounds that are higher than 230 decibels! Should you happen to hear the clicking sound of the sperm whale above the surface of the water, it is not enough to cover your ears - the sound is a thousand times louder than if you are standing right behind a jet plane taking off...

Sperm whale in Kaikoura
Sperm whale in Kaikoura

After the first whale waved goodbye with its tail fin, we were lucky enough to see a few more whales. The whales were lying on the surface breathing and blowing out water to prepare for their deep dives. Once fully rested, they slowly dove into the depths with their tails straight up. However, one of the sperm whales seemed to be a bit curious about us and raised its head above the surface to take a closer look. We must have been very exciting to watch, because the whales then dove under our boat, and looked up at us from below with their big eyes. Then the captain got a little worried and told us to go and get back in the boat. Even though we were on a relatively large catamaran, you don't want to be put on by a grumpy sperm whale…

After watching several whales dive, we headed towards a bay where we were greeted by hundreds of jumping and playing dolphins! How cute are these animals? You can't help but laugh and clap your hands when they jump and the more attention they got, the more they showed. Absolutely gorgeous!!

Dolphins in Kaikoura
kaikoura

After almost 4 hours at sea we were back on land again. Time flies when you're having fun... Unfortunately we didn't see any blue whales today, it seems that they usually pass by here during the winter.

Back in the car and full speed towards Christchurch! In February 2011, one of New Zealand's worst earthquakes ever occurred right here in Christchurch. The central parts of the city were completely destroyed and almost 200 people died. Enough because we understood that the devastation was great after the earthquake, but we had not understood that after 5 years the city would still be this destroyed...

Christchurch

We stayed at a newly renovated and relatively newly opened Ibis in the middle of town. Actually the first hotel to open after the earthquake. The buildings that are built nowadays have different requirements to withstand earthquakes than the old houses had, so it takes time to rebuild the city.

Christchurch
Christchurch
Christchurch
Christchurch

We took a walk through the center to find an open restaurant for dinner. There really isn't much left of central Christchurch. The beautiful old cathedral has fallen apart and everywhere we saw demolition houses with graffiti. Not much was open, all the shopkeepers seemed to be at home celebrating Christmas. Walked through a rickety mall where the tram rails run right through the mall, but everything was closed. Finally we found an open restaurant in a Rendezvous hotel - Straits Café. Looked perfectly ok, with a good menu. It really didn't feel worth spending time looking for another restaurant on a day like this. It was clear that the restaurant was not used to so many guests, so the food took a disproportionately long time. But perfectly ok results that satisfied our hungry stomachs before we went back to the hotel to digest all the impressions of the day. I admit that as an evening reading, I read the hotel's evacuation plan a little more carefully than I usually do. When you see the devastation in this earthquake-stricken area, you realize what forces are hiding down there in the earth.

Do you want to read more about our adventure in New Zealand? Check out the next day at Travel diary New Zealand: Day 11. Little blue penguins or previous day on Travel diary New Zealand: Day 9. Vineyards in Marlborough .

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About the blogger

Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

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