NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group



It takes just a whisper of a humpback or sperm whale for the catamaran to fall into a predictable dance. The anticipation begins as a crew member pauses to listen for whale echolocation, which can be heard up to 12km away. “Move to the starboard side,” the captain announces and, like a pod of dolphins, the passengers move to take their place for the grand finale. If the chase is fruitful, everyone will gasp in unison as the whale dives under the water, leaving a perfectly curled tail for onlookers to capture on film. Whale Watch has been owned and operated by Ngāti Kuri iwi since 1987. Ngāti Kuri leaders (a sub-tribe of Ngāi Tahu) saw the whales as an opportunity to reconnect their spiritual bond with the tohorā (whale), the kaitiaki (guardian) of the sea. So they mortgaged their houses to secure a loan for the whale-watching venture. And thus, Whale Watch was born. Sperm whales are Kaikōura's largest permanent residents; depending on the season, they are joined by migrating pods of humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales. While a whale sighting is never guaranteed, Whale Watch voyages average one to two sightings in addition to visits by pods of dusky dolphins, seals and sea birds. Chasing the planet's largest mammal is an emotional ride and, for those lucky enough to witness these colossal beasts in their natural habitat, the experience goes far beyond the perfect holiday snap. Whaleway Station Road, Kaikōura. (03) 319 6767, whalewatch.co.nz