Sunday, April 15, 2012

Whale Watching in Kaikoura!

The biggest toothed predator lives and feeds just off the shores of our new home! A few nautical miles out from the Kaikoura Peninsula is a huge trench that is about 1.5km deep, and thus the perfect beeding ground for the Sperm Whale, so named because its head is full of a white waxy oil that humans once mistook for sperm, until they found a female Sperm Whale and realized it wasn't sperm at all, but probably related to either/both buoyancy control and/or their sonar use for finding prey.

Success at finding whales to view was virtually guaranteed as the company has a 95% success rate and offers an 80% refund if they were unsuccessful in seeing at least one whale. Overall it was a pretty cool experience, they went out to the known feeding area, just a 10-15 minute ride off shore, and then spent some time listening with a big underwater mic to see where they heard the Sperm Whale's clicking... adjusted where the boat was, listened again, etc... Until eventually the clicking stopped which meant the whale was on his (only males feed here, the water is too cold for female Sperm Whales) way back up to the surface. We all waited with baited breath for the telltale sign on the surface of a small jet of water and air as the whale breathes on the surface. He's there for about 5 minutes breathing and processing food (systems like the stomach shut down while they're underwater to save oxygen) so there was lots of time to maneuver the boat into positions for some great shots, the best of which is the dive back under when the tail breaks the surface. Super cool! We ended up seeing 2 different whales a few miles apart.

The time hanging out on the water was neat (though seasick inducing if you're susceptible - probably a good thing Jacqui didn't come on this one), there was lots of albatross to be seen, both Shy Albatross and Buller's Albatross, which was pretty unexpected... Along with lots of other sea birds. I had my big lens on my camera so I got quite a few good shots, I'd say... Enjoy!

There was another boat out with us this morning. Ours looked just like this one!
Thar [he] blows! We found a whale!
Too cool! These guys are soooo big, we're only seeing a fraction of the whale on the surface.
Waves splash around him while he digests and breathes, mmmmm, air and food.
Back arching, getting ready to dive!
Bye! Good luck hunting!
The captain is busy searching for another whale for us to view.
This is either a Buller's or a Shy Albatross, but I cannot for the life of me tell you which.
I think this little guy might be an immature version of one of the same two species of Albatrosses.
Our second whale! He's got a white spot on his fin there that he was named after. I forget the name now though, but it's Maori and means something like "white patch".
Back beginning to arch, dive imminent!
There's that big tail!
And straight down! Hope he finds some giant squid for a big meal, that water's cold, he deserves it!


  1. Wow! I enjoyed the pics and info and especially the albatross shot! Never seen one!

  2. I love the markings on the underside of their wings! I hope I get to see one (I seen a couple birds that might have been albatross, but I was unable to confirm).

  3. Yup! The joys and frustrations of birdwatching!