New Zealand, Oceania, South Island, Uncategorized 25

Abundance of marine life – Sperm Whale, Seals and Albatross with Whale Watch Kaikoura

After six months of life and travels in North Island, New Zealand, we finally did an epic campervan South Island roadtrip. Our itinerary for the next 10 days were packed! We started out from Auckland, made our way to Wellington (630km) via first night at Lake Taupo located in between the two. We had a day at Wellington (very cool city) and boarded the InterIslander Ferry there to cross the Cook Straits and get to Picton 3 hours later. The crossing was lovely, you can see the Marlborough Sounds, the water colour is just stunning! We had another 2 hours from there to get to Kaikoura on the east coast of south island. This was one of the first destinations I had looked up when we started planning travels around New Zealand, even though it is not as well known as Milford Sounds in the south island or Rotorua in the north.

Lake Taupo

Our first night in the campervan was spent at Lake Taupo


Ferry crossing to South Island

Why Kaikoura?

For a marine ecologist like myself, what could be better than a destination that has a plethora of marine biodiversity 🙂 rest of the Selims are big fans too! Kaikoura is teeming with marine life both on land and at sea – it has its own residential population of 80 sperm whales. Dusky dolphins are frequently seen here as well as humpback whales, there are a variety of sea birds including the mighty albatross! There are a few NZ seal colonies and we had just recently watched a video of this one place – Ohau waterfalls where the seal pups come in to learn to swim in safety between June and September.  Kaikoura is located in the most northern district in the Canterbury region on the east coast of the South Island. In my first post this year I had written about all the things we were looking forward to in New Zealand. I am happy to say I have ticked one of the major ones on this trip thanks to our amazing whale watching expedition with Whale Watch Kaikoura 🙂

Whale Watch Kaikoura is a New Zealand nature-based tourism company both owned and operated by the indigenous Ngati Kuri people of Kaikoura, a Maori sub-tribe of the South Island’s larger Ngai Tahu Tribe. For more information of the history and ethos of this company, see here.  They are also big on sustainable tourism and you can here specifically what they have done with their boats and how they operate to minimize their environmental impact. Their tours run everyday of the year, except on Christmas day. Children under 3 years of age are not allowed. The cost for adults is $145 and for children $60.  There are three different times during the day that you can go out whale watching and one extra time at 3:30 in the summer months. We went in the morning at 10:30. The entire experience out at sea lasts about 2.5 hours with another half hour of safety procedure and brief bus ride from the Whale Watch Centre to the boats. We were ever so excited that the day was bright, skies were blue, and the scenery of the Kaikoura mountain range just spectacular.




At Whale Watch Kaikoura

We were recommended to take natural sea sickness medicine which they sold over the counter as the seas were choppy that day. We were then shown a safety video along with pictures of the different species we might see. It was not crowded as I had feared. Whale Watch Kaikoura has a 95% success rate of seeing a sperm whale and if for some reason you don’t, they guarantee an 80% refund. Thankfully we didn’t have to do that 🙂

On the boat, getting ready to head out to sea!

On the bus, getting ready to head out to sea!

kaikoura mountain range

kaikoura mountain range

The crew consisted of three individuals – the skipper, the watcher (the guy who scanned the horizon for whales) and the guide who narrated the whole time during the tour. They were all very friendly. The guide told us lots of interesting and cool facts about sperm whales – the largest toothed predator in the world, how it got it’s name (!), how far it dives down (depth of 3000m) to catch it’s prey – giant squid.  He also talked about other whales, sea birds, food cycles, he showed some great videos, the kids were very fascinated. I was trying my best not to get sick, the sea was very choppy, beautiful and blue but oh so very rough 🙁

We stopped several times to scan the horizon and the crew were also communicating with other ships that had spotted a whale. We saw several albatrosses and shearwaters. There was enough space all around the deck and on the upper deck for everyone to stand around and get decent views. It was getting near the end of our tour and then when we almost gave up home, a whale was spotted!

sperm whale

Our first sighting of a sperm whale!

sperm whale

sperm whale made famous by Herman Melville in his novel Moby Dick





fluke of the whale

It was a beautiful and magical moment, several moments as the giant of the sea just stayed above the water for a while, before flipping it’s fluke and diving deep down. I was pretty choked up I must say (and also still trying my best not to get sick).  We saw three different kind of albatross, but unfortunately I cannot remember the names anymore. Can you tell from this picture which kind it is?


One of the larger Albatross species that we spotted

Upon return to land, we went for lunch and were recommended  Kaikoura Seafood BBQ stall just next to the seal colony. Food was AMAZING! Crayfish is very famous in this region, but quite expensive at most restaurants. Our platter for 4 people was $50, well worth the money.

And then we ended our day with plenty of seal sighting. Seal pups and adults, all lazing in the sun, some on the paths people walk on to get to the colony! We watched this adorable pup climb up to this rock, struggled quite a bit but eventually got there 🙂 We stayed that night at the most amazing campsite, the best we have been to in all of New Zealand. It was a magical day,Kaikoura is really a very special place and definitely on our top 10 for places to go to in New Zealand. Now need to go back here to see some dusky dolphins and orcas 😀

you looking at me?

you looking at me?

seal pup 10 months

seal pup 10 months

adult seal

adult seal

Disclaimer We were given discounted media passes for our whalwatching trip, but I can honestly say, this was one of the most memorable experiences ever, I would highly recommend this tour to everyone! 


The Selim Family Raasta

Linked to #wkendtravelinspiration  #weekendwanderlust  Nature’s Notes, Wednesdays Around the World  and Outdoor Wednesday 


natures notes



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  • Lyndall says: October 10, 2015 at 6:16 am

    I love New Zealand. How exciting for you to see a whale AND a seal. Great pics capturing your adventure 🙂

  • Carol Colborn says: October 10, 2015 at 7:59 am

    My husband’s dream vacation. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of why. We should plan this in the near future!

  • Valerie says: October 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    This does look like a really magical experience, and your photos are amazing! I had never heard of Kaikoura before, but I think it will have to go on my bucket list for sure!

  • Yasha Langford says: October 10, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Fabulous experience for you and your family! Your photos are awesome. Thanks.

  • Anda says: October 10, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    New Zealand looks so beautiful, Samiya! I’d love to visit it someday. Some of your pictures remind me a lot about the Pacific Coast around Monterey area.

    • says: October 14, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      It reminded me as well of the drive we did in California, from Montery to San Francisco. I guess it is still the pacific coast from a different country 🙂

  • budget jan says: October 11, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Kaikoura is a lovely area isn’t it. We enjoyed walking around the seal colonies and across the hilltops. We found the crayfish very expensive even at the Stalls. We wanted to swim with the seals but missed the boat. I was in two minds about it because the water would have been quite cold. We will definitely visit Kaikoura again and will do a boat trip then. Lovely photos and experience.

    • says: October 14, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      I too want to visit Kaikoura again! We did find the crayfish expensive but we had to try as we were there and heard such raving reviews of it!

  • Brenda says: October 11, 2015 at 5:04 am

    I love the ocean and would love to see these sperm whales one day in New Zealand! Those seals are so adorable!

  • Danielle (Bubs on the Move) says: October 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Well these are just stunning photos! What a wonderful day. You’ve shared the essence of your experience so beautifully.

  • Vedante | The Lavish Nomad says: October 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    The picture which shows both kaikoura mountain range and the sea looks so unreal. Seeing a mountain range while sailing.. wow

    • says: October 14, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      It was quite amazing 🙂 New Zealand is just full of natural stunning landscape/seascape like that 🙂

  • katja - globetotting says: October 12, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    I love those photos of the seal and seal pup! We saw humpback whales in Mexico and it was one of those experiences that will stay with you forever – this looks the same! What a fantastic trip in an incredible setting!

  • Lisa Goodmurphy says: October 12, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    What a great excursion! We have been on whale watching trips in Alaska and on the east coast of Canada and it is such an incredible feeling when you see a whale. Love your photos of the seals too – I think I would enjoy seeing them just as much!

    • says: October 14, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      We can’t wait to see whales in Alaska and Canada as well! Very high on our bucketlist 🙂

  • Claudia Laroye says: October 13, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    That looks amazing. I cannot wait to experience New Zealand for ourselves! Agree that whale watching is one of the most incredible experiences one can have in this world.

  • Shilpa Balakrishnan says: October 14, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Though I have never been to a whale watching tour before, I got to see these whales in Indian Ocean in Maldives. I got to see dolphins too – quite unexpectedly but was so beautiful. I would love to camp at Kaikoura too

    • says: October 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      wow! That sounds amazing Shilpa! We are hoping to see blue whales when we head to Sri Lanka next year, you see them there around September time. Would love to visit Maldives as well 🙂

  • Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) says: October 14, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    You think I could take a seal pup home with me? Ya know, for a pet? 😉 Seriously, though, they are so adorable. And what an awesome experience for your family! We hope to make our first trip to NZ within the next few years and this is something we’d love to do. I very much like that the whale-watching company is run by an indigenous group, that they believe in sustainable tourism, and that guests can get an 80% refund if no whales are sighted! That’s almost unheard of.

    • says: October 14, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      You guys will have such a wonderful time, NZ is really a beautiful country to travel in, full of natural stunning landscape and seascape! We also really liked all those facts about Whale Watch Kaikoura, I am glad we didn’t have to get our refund though and got to see a whale 🙂

  • Ramblingwoods says: October 14, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    oh WOW… I would love to see the whales. I watch all the TV nature programs that have to do with marine life since I was a child. Wonderful trip and photos.. I am so sorry about the Linky. I was editing and knocked some code off earlier… sorry about that. I see so many new memes now. When I started blogging almost 9 years ago there weren’t many but there could be 100 links in them and most people visited every linked post… Michelle

  • shobha says: October 17, 2015 at 11:47 am

    We went whale watching in Iceland and saw some whales. None of the photos came out as good as yours though! I’m loving the seal photos especially! so cute.

  • Joe Ankenbauer says: October 24, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I love whale watching! I’ve never seen a speed whale though! Such an awesome site! Great pictures!

  • Rob Taylor says: December 9, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Omagoodness. That seal pup was adorable. What a cool wildlife trip! I hope we get to hear a bit more when we work together on a marine science tourism piece!

    • says: December 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Me too Rob 🙂 Not sure if you had sent me the questions, as I haven’t received anything on my end? ?just checking in case you need to send again! The seal pups were so adorable!

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