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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.

Paikea & whale

Paikea & whale

Stunning tail shot

Stunning tail shot

Kaikoura Peninsula

Kaikoura Peninsula


583 reviews with the most recent first, showing page 1 of 98.

Wilhelm Wiechel's avatar

Wilhelm Wiechel


Ranking: 9/10

We did whale watching with Whale Watch Kaikoura - it was great.

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Lizzie Edmonds's avatar

Lizzie Edmonds

United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

Unfortunately we did not see any whales on our trip - however we did see dusky dolphins, seals and albatross. The boat was nice and the crew was great. Would recommend.

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Richard's avatar


Puerto Rico

Ranking: 10/10

Friendly staff, amazing experience, good value.

Thank You - to the thousands of travellers that have contributed to our Top Voted NZ Activities Map - it's free from Rankers.

Michael Holm's avatar

Michael Holm


Ranking: 9/10

Despite the sea sickness, it was an amazing experience to see the Albatross, seal and the sperm whale for 10 minutes. Great, fun and informative guide and staff.

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David's avatar


United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Fantastic information, great close up action with sperm whales. Incredible location.

Award-1-24px Congratulations Whale Watch Kaikoura

Top Ranked Awards 2015 Whale Watching Winner

Wendy's avatar


New Zealand

Ranking: 10/10

An absolutely beautiful experience.