Posted by: The Travelling Mallorys | January 31, 2011

Kaikoura, and EXTREME whale watching!

Hello again fans! So we left Christchurch on the bus heading to Kaikoura. A mere 3 hours later we arrived, after having to do a loop of the peninsula after the driver forgot to do a stop and an elderly French couple started shouting, “STOP THE BUS! YHA!!!!!!!!”

Kaikoura is on the eastern coast of the South Island. The ocean surrounding the town is teeming with marine life, due to a unique occurence of a dramatic continental shelf. This means it is a happy place for whales, seals and dolphins.



Well it’s a lot happier for them now than it used to be!! Historically Kaikoura was a whaling community. Boo! But they stopped that practice many moons ago and are now focused on conservation and eco-tourism. We stayed at the Fish Tank Lodge and felt a bit like we were living in an aquarium.

Some of you may remember that we have had a whale based encounter before.

Yes, when my lovely wife surprised me with a trip to Iceland for my 30th birthday, I not only got to visit one of the places I have always wanted to go, but saw the amazing humpback whale in its natural habitat. The spectacle of which sent me vegetarian for a year!

Would Gavin undergo another life-changing epiphany this time?

I underwent some bowel-churning sea-sickness if that counts!

Ah, yes. When we went to check-in for our whale watching adventure, we were warned that conditions were very choppy and that if you were aware you suffered sea/motion sickness to reconsider going out, or at least medicate yourself! Now I believe sea sickness is a form of WEAKNESS. (I also believe that hayfever is a sign of weakness, and indeed thought it was a myth for several years). Unfortunately for me, I suffer terribly from both. SOOOOOOO annoying!

What a crazy little wife! She popped two motion sickness pills and we mentally prepared. We went to have our briefing and the man again went on about how bad conditions were and that this expedition was only marginally going ahead and could turn back at any time. He said the trip “would not be for the faint hearted!” I thought he was hamming it up a bit to be honest. We could see the sea and it looked alright to me.

As we boarded the boat we were again warned that the conditions would be rough and got the old ‘turn back’ wail. We would not! They told us that today, we would be EXTREME Whale Watching.

I always take all those warnings with a pinch of salt. How bad could it be right? Really bad actually. Super bad! Our little boat was tossed and thrown about by huge waves. It was extremely windy and the waves lashed over the top of the boat all over us. Was this actually safe?

My Dad gave me a little tip last time we spoke about my sea sickness and told me to lift up my legs, and go with the motion of the boat. This actually really helps, as does focussing on something static. I steeled my stomach, mind over matter, and do you know what, no matter how sick I felt, no matter how many bruises I have from when we stumbled outside to see the whales, clinging on to anything to stop from hitting the deck, no matter how wet the entire inside of the boat got from the tsunamic wave that hit us, it was so worth it! What an incredible experience.

The zoom on our camera is broken, but you can see the tail flipping out of the water as the whale breaches

The zoom on our camera is broken, but you can see the tail flipping out of the water as the whale breaches

We saw 5 sperm whales! Fantastic, or fintistuc, as the Kiwis say it. The first sighting was of 2 sperm whales together, side by side. And then they both stretched and flipped their tails out of the water to dive. Just amazing.
We got really close to a couple and in fact the choppy conditions helped us to see a bit more as the waves tossed and rolled over the whales.

I never get seasick and love a rough boat trip, but this was something else. Check me out here. Green to the gills!


Bleurgh! It's almost vom-o'clock.


The journey back was pretty horrible and I would say 95% of the people were feeling ill and a large majority were vomiting. Even thinking about brings back those awful memories!

We got back to find the rest of the days trips cancelled and the following days! The conditions were too bad, so in some ways we were lucky to get out when we did. We would do it all over again!

And as wonderful and beautiful it was, I am still eating meat (not whale though).

Kaikoura is also home to some seal colonies so on went the walking boots and we set out to Point Kean to see us some furry seals!

It’s a lovely walk along the coast, even in the wind and we saw plenty of gorgeous rock formations, birds and breathtaking scenery before even reaching the seal colony. When we did we were greeted by this fella! Or lady seal, we’re not sure…

Arf arf

Arf arf


It is quite peaceful watching the seals. They come on land mainly to rest and don’t like to be disturbed so we were very quiet. Yes, even me!

We only saw 2 more seals but they are so cute we didn’t regret the long walk out there. If we had more money I would have definitely gone out swimming with the dolphins, which are also prevalent around here. But you can’t do everything so the little dolphins have missed the Gavmeister this time!

Along with the wildlife watching and walking, Kaikoura is also famous for crayfish (lobster) which is sold everywhere and predictably costs the earth. We chose to pass on the crayfish and instead visit the delightful museum. It is a little hotchpotch of interesting nick nacks, thrown together in a random fashion and compered by two elderly local ladies. One of them even knew of Worthing!

The weather can change in an instant here so we actually just got inside the museum before what felt like a hurricane hit. We wandered round sampling the artifacts. I even tried out an old hoover!

In the old jail there was a padded room. I refused to go in, just in case Gavin locked me in there!

She’s canny that one! The museum was great, and another thing Kaikoura has going for it is this:


It's even got a beer terrace overlooking the sea and mountains. Lovely!

It's even got a beer terrace overlooking the sea and mountains. Lovely!


Yes, my friends, my favourite Kiwi brewery, Monteiths. But to my shock and dismay they didn’t have a happy hour!

Probably for the best, I would never have got him out of there! It also meant we discovered Cellar Tastings, a kind of DIY wine tasting place. Happy days!

It's wine time!

It's wine time!


We have had a brilliant few days in Kaikoura and would recommend it to anyone.

We have just arrived at our first Help Exchange. We will live with the family, work for four hours a day (you know, doing manly things like chopping wood) and get our food and accommodation in return.

I’m looking forward to it, especially seeing Gavin being manly!

That’s all for now, we’ll be touch again soon with an update on how the Help exchange is going. In the meantime you can see all our New Zealand photos on Flickr.

We’re off to paint a gazebo now. Bye everyone!


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