Alicioustravels: Having a whale of a time

There are few things I find more mesmerising than watching marine mammals in the water. Mr A got his first glimpse of a dolphin in Santorini, saw his first whale in Madeira and was immediately hooked to the grace and elegance of these big animals.

According to our good friend Google, any time is a good time to go whale watching off the Kaikoura coast, but in winter chances to encounter the largest mammals on the planet are even higher, so it was clear for us to make this a fixed point of our journey around New Zealand – which turned into one of many highlights on this trip.

Driving up from Christchurch we first went to watch the seal pups playing in Ohau stream, some 20 minutes north of Kaikoura. You park your car next to the road and walk upstream for a couple of minutes until you get to a picturesque waterfall. As if this wasn’t pretty enough, you will find seal pups playing in and around the water, sleeping on the rocks or generally lazing about. To us, this was such a random thing to happen and for that very reason so special – who would expect seals to swim inland to play in a waterfall? The pups stay there while their parents are out hunting – it’s a perfectly safe and obviously quite fun place for them to hang out. And tourists like us get to “ooh” and “aaah” at them.

Ohau stream seal pups

The next morning we took a tour with WhaleWatch Kaikoura. After a first intro on whales and other marine mammals we boarded the boat and were already out on the water on a beautiful winter morning. Part of our crew was a watcher, whose job it was to find whales for us. After maybe 15 minutes I saw the first fluke. How exciting! However, since there was no general commotion on the boat I must have been the only one. When I mentioned it to the watcher later he only smiled – so there was one other person who had spotted it.

Sperm whale blowing

The trip turned out to be amazing: altogether we saw 5 sperm whales hanging out in the bay, breathing on the surface before taking one last breath and diving under (they will stay under water for some 45 minutes before they resurface). Even the crew was excited because they hadn’t seen so many individuals on one trip for a long time.

Watch the video of a sperm whale diving here.


When the whales were all under water, we suddenly found ourselves in a pod of maybe 30 Dusky dolphins that enjoyed themselves in the waves our boat produced and gave us the full show of jumps and clicks and racing around the vessel.

Dusky dolphin

Watch a video of the school of Dusky dolphins here.

Over the excitement of whales and dolphins, the birds were shamelessly neglected. And unrightly so! There were all kinds of petrels, shags and gannets and even a mollymawk for good measure. They shrieked and squeaked competing for our attention but had no chance against what was going on below them.

Kaikoura sunrise Kaikoura walk

Back on shore we completed two short coastal walks, enjoying the 360° views, before heading back to Christchurch for the night.

Ezzie over Kaikoura

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