Friday, February 26, 2010

Whale Watching in Kaikoura

We only have six days to see the South Island of New Zealand, which is a tall order given how much there is to see. We’re planning to make the most of our time by driving around to the top spots that were recommended to us by friends, covering five cities and hours of beautiful NZ landscapes.

We started our “Tour de New Zealand” in Kaikoura , a small city known for its abundance of marine life – whales, dolphins and seals – and its strikingly beautiful setting on the sea with a majestic mountain backdrop.

We got up early to go whale watching (and luckily got two spots off the waiting list on the second boat out) and despite the seriously rough sea conditions, had a great time learning about and seeing the mighty sperm whale in action. We spotted a male sperm whale 6km off the coast and spent about an hour with him. Sperm whales are the largest living toothed animals and the deepest divers in the sea, diving 1-3 kilometers deep for 40 minutes at a time to feed. In between they spend about 20 minutes at the surface hanging out to catch their breath before diving again.

We also learned that the reason for the abundance of marine wildlife in Kaikoura is the underwater geography. The continental shelf isn’t far from the shore, where the seabed drops from approximately 90 meters deep to over 800 meters. The warm and cold water currents converge here, bringing nutrients up from the ocean floor into the “feeding zone” attracting other marine life.

After returning to land we walked the Kaikoura Peninsula trail to enjoy the beautiful setting along the water. Pictures of whale watching and Kaikoura are below.

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