Kaikoura Whale Watch
The daily budget is a big influence on any decision for the backpacker. Followed through thick and thin, for better or worse, a backpacker’s budget is like a chain that won't break. There are occasions though when these rules have to be relaxed especially if you have the chance to go whale watching in Kaikoura!
After a lot of 'do we, don’t we?' we booked it. We paid $130 each with a 10% discount- big dollars! 'When will we have this chance again?' we thought.
The morning greeted us with spectacular views of the Kaikoura Mountains, the snow still glistening on the tops.
What a great day we picked!
The only thing between whales and us was two hours of wwoofing for our accommodation. Focusing all my attention and energy on the vegetable patch I’ve been working on, I didn’t notice the mountains disappear and be replaced with low, dark clouds. Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t clear up but at least it wasn’t raining.
The introduction to Whale Watch Kaikoura is a documentary style video focusing on Sperm Whales and Orcas, the common whales in this area. Once we boarded the boat and were introduced to the Captain and crew, the boat started speeding towards the area where the whales were spotted in the morning (a pod). Our expectations weren’t high at all. All we expected was a sea full of Orcas with dolphins jumping in the air, sperm whales shooting water into our faces and maybe a rainbow. What did I say about our expectations again?
Once the boat had found the pod, the crew started searching for any life around. One of the crew informed us that ‘watching for whales requires a lot of patience as you might be looking for hours before you see one!’ So we waited. Waited. What’s that over there? Oh, just a wave. Waited.
Finally we caught site of ‘Tutu’ (Maori for inquisitive) one of the resident whales in the area. What an amazing creature!
The size of the mammal is incredible and we were informed that only 9% of a whale's body mass appears over the surface! After a couple of minutes on the surface, Tutu dived back down and gave us all the pictures we were hoping for.
Just as the excitement was starting to ease, another sperm whale was spotted in the area and before we knew it, the boat was speeding towards it. Another resident was at the surface, ‘Tiaki’ (Maori for guardian) and was later joined by Tutu who resurfaced. After a couple of minutes they both double dropped, a very rare occurrence apparently! The boat then took us along the coastline of Kaikoura where we saw the endangered Hector Dolphin. It is the smallest of all the dolphin family, which is why it was virtually impossible to snap them. Still, it was the first time I’d ever seen one in the wild.
After seeing two sperm whales, albatross and a couple of hector dolphins; the boat took us to the shore. We got off the vessel with rosy red cheeks, incredible hair cuts but more importantly, satisfied and happy.
We obviously knew our expectations were too high and seeing just one whale would have made it worth it, but the fact that we saw two so close made it an incredible experience and worth every penny.