The mountains meet the sea in dramatic fashion in the coastal town of Kaikoura, creating an environment that supports a fascinating array of wildlife. Albatross, whales, dolphins, fur seals and more call Kaikoura home, making it heaven for lovers of unique marine and birdlife. Read on, and we’ll explain why so many rare animals call this place home...
Jutting out from the East Coast of the South Island, Kaikoua’s landscape is pure drama. Here, the rugged Kaikoura Range plunges into the Pacific Ocean, creating a continental shelf that drops quickly into a number of deep underwater canyons. A warm current from the north meets a cooler current from the south, pushing nutrients from deep within the ocean up to the surface. Dolphins, whales, seabirds, seals and more are sustained by these nutrient-rich waters, protected by a large marine sanctuary.
It’s one of the best places in New Zealand to visit for close-up encounters of rare marine and bird life.
The Albatross Capital of the World
The world’s largest seabirds, Albatross can have a wingspan of over three metres, allowing them to travel vast distances from their breeding grounds to feed. These princely birds spend 85% of their lives at sea, landing on water to feed or sleep. Twelve species of Albatross can be found in the waters off Kaikoura, feeding in the rich waters off the coast. Witnessing an Albatross in flight in front of the backdrop of the towering Kaikoura Ranges is spectacular to watch.
A Whale Watching Mecca
Whales flock to the Kaikoura coastline to feed in the nutrient-rich waters. The majestic Sperm Whale, growing up to 15 metres in length, can be seen here all year round; while the iconic Humpback Whales pass through the area in June and July on their way north to the Pacific Islands. Killer whales call the Kaikoura coastline home during the summer months, easily spotted from December to March. A dedicated whale watching boat cruise or scenic flight is the best way to encounter these beautiful creatures up-close.
Dolphins and Fur Seals
Thousands of cheeky, inquisitive dolphins and fur seals call this area home. Large pods of several to over 1000 Dusky Dolphins are present in Kaikoura’s waters all year round; their acrobatic leaps and twists making for an impressive viewing experience. Choose to either swim with them or to watch from the boat deck.
New Zealand’s largest fur seal breeding colony, the Ohau Point Sanctuary is home to the estimated 3000 fur seals that live in the area, making the most of the rich ocean bounty. Seals dot the Kaikoura coastline, lounging on beaches, rocks and grassy areas just metres from people and car parks. Seeing these inquisitive, intelligent creatures up close is a humbling experience.
Experience Kaikoura with MoaTrek
Many of our small group tours incorporate the marine life mecca of Kaikoura – take a look at our small group tours here for more information.