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South IslandKaikoura RegionKaikoura

Whale Watch is a multiple national and international award winning New Zealand nature-based Tourism Company owned and operated by the indigenous Ngāti Kuri people of Kaikōura, a Māori sub-tribe of the South Island's larger Ngāi Tahu Tribe.

OPENING HOURS: Daily sailings from 6.45am to 14.45pm
COST: Whalewatch Tour – $150 per person | Kaikoura Marine Combo – $396.00 per person | Christchurch to Kaikoura Day Tour $315 per person

Whale Watch was formed in 1987 at a time when Māori were casualties of Kaikōura’s declining economy. At this time of difficulty, Ngāti Kuri leaders like (The late) Bill Solomon believed the local Sperm Whales held the answer to the unemployment problems of the Māori community. They knew their ancestor Paikea had journeyed to a new life in New Zealand on the back of the whale Tohorā. It seemed appropriate for Paikea's descendants to again ride on the back of the whale to a new life and prosperity.

And so it proved to be.

The Ngāti Kuri founders of Whale Watch mortgaged their houses to secure a loan to start the business. In the early days passengers travelled aboard a 6.7 metre inflatable vessel carrying 8 passengers at a time. In the first year of operation 3,000 passengers were carried. In time, the inflatable was replaced by a larger vessel with an upper viewing deck until today the Whale Watch fleet numbers four modern catamarans specially designed for whale watching, each holding 48 passengers. Now up to 100,000 passengers can be carried each year. The expansion of the Whale Watch fleet required the building of an entire marina in South Bay. It is from here that all whale watching tours now depart.

Due to the phenomenal success of Whale Watch, Kaikōura is now one of New Zealand's leading eco-tourism destinations offering a diverse range of exciting activities and experiences. The company has stimulated investment in new accommodation, restaurants and an impressive array of cafes and galleries filled with the work of local artists.

Paikea and Tohorā still form the symbolic centre of Whale Watch. They represent the spiritual bond between the human world and the natural world and speak of the possibilities that reveal themselves when the world of nature is revered rather than exploited.

Learn more…

Paikea & whale

Paikea & whale

Stunning tail shot

Stunning tail shot

Kaikoura Peninsula

Kaikoura Peninsula

Email: res@whalewatch.co.nz

Website: Whale Watch Kaikoura

Phone: +64 319 6767

Kaikoura Address:
P O Box 89, Kaikoura

Operating Season And Hours: Daily salings from 6.45am to 14.45pm


Featured review

Whale Watch Kaikoura has selected this customer review to be pinned to the top of this page.

This review was selected by Lisa of Whale Watch Kaikoura on Mon 04 Apr, 2016.

paulmiles's avatar


United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Very professional setup, safety paramount. Short coach trip to south harbour then 2+ hours at sea. Very knowledgeable staff. We were probably very lucky in that we saw a whale almost straight away, followed by a pod of 200 or more dusky dolphins who performed fantastic acrobatics for at least 30 mins. Also saw petrels, albatross and a couple of sharks. Not a cheap trip but how often can you see whales? And the dolphns were magical.

573 reviews with the most recent first, showing page 1 of 45.

Peter Beeloo's avatar

Peter Beeloo


Ranking: 8/10

Was not planning to do this but i am glad i did. Amazing whale watch and orca,s as a bonus.

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Lucie Colpin's avatar

Lucie Colpin


Ranking: 9/10

Incredible experience. Professional staff. Just a little bit too short.

Niall Regan's avatar

Niall Regan


Ranking: 9/10

Getting to see whales was amazing, the boat and crew were both fantastic. We saw Hector dolphins as well as Albatross and seals - an amazing day!

Whale Watch Kaikoura is open for business… Visit Website …now's your chance to take a closer look.

Guilhem's avatar



Ranking: 7/10

We saw some dolphins and two whales. It was beautiful but you do not really see much of the whales. I liked it but it does not deserve to be $150 per person.

Laura Leoekloek's avatar

Laura Leoekloek


Ranking: 10/10

Awesome! Saw 2 whales, a few dolphins and a lot of birds. People are very nice and give you a lot of information.

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Lena's avatar



Ranking: 8/10

Just one whale, but a lot of dolphins.

Alice Frater's avatar

Alice Frater

United Kingdom

Ranking: 8/10

Great experience - saw 2 sperm whales, dolphins and seals. Staff were very informative and professional. A little overpriced.

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John Edwards's avatar

John Edwards

United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

Brilliant to see the whales and dolphins in Kaikoura and very exciting. Only objection is it is a little expensive.

Maayke Reidsma's avatar

Maayke Reidsma


Ranking: 9/10

We have seen three sperm whales during the tour and a lot of dolphins. The money was worth it!

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Leonie's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Amazing (a word Dutch do not use very often!) tour, well trained and enthusiastic guides!! Lots of information, 98% chance of seeing a whale, saw dolphins as well.

Wendy van Boom's avatar

Wendy van Boom


Ranking: 9/10

Another great thing to do in Kaikoura. We got a lot of information about sperm whales and the staff looked out for them with echo location. We saw two. A marvellous moment when they went down.

Whale Watch Kaikoura is open for business… Visit Website …now's your chance to take a closer look.

Olivier Anciaux's avatar

Olivier Anciaux


Ranking: 10/10

Great trip, great information, great wildlife. Many people (big group), but this organisation handles it pretty good. Thumbs up!!

Ann Teeters's avatar

Ann Teeters

United States

Ranking: 10/10

We did this trip with Whale Watch Kaikoura in early March 2017. Of our 3 week trip to the South Island, this was probably our favorite day! We saw sperm whales and orcas, HUNDREDS of flipping dusty dolphins that were nothing short of magical! In addition, a couple of sharks and some albatross came by. The staff was very nice, informative, and friendly. We had a beautiful day and I definitely recommend this tour.