Whale Watch

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Humpback Whale

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Weight 40 tons.
Length 15m.
Can live for over 50 years.

A species of baleen whale that migrates from the Antarctic to the tropics to mate and give birth in winter. Humpback Whales tend to feed within 50m of the water's surface, taking krill and shoaling fish.

They are frequently seen in Kaikoura during winter months where they sometimes perform spectacular displays of spyhopping, breaching, lobtailing and flipper slapping. The tendency for Humpbacks to come very close to shore means they can become tangled in craypot lines. In 2003, a local Kaikoura fisherman, Tom Smith, was accidentally killed while trying to free a trapped Humpback Whale in South Bay.

The common name 'humpback' describes the method of diving and swimming that exposes the great humped back and small dorsal fin. The scientific name Megaptera novaeangliae means 'big-winged New Englander'. The 'big wings' refer to the Humpback's huge flippers that can be one third of the total body length. The name 'New Englander' comes from that region of north-east America where contact with Humpback Whales first began through commercial whaling.

Between 1900 and 1940, over 100,000 Humpbacks were taken in the Southern Hemisphere. 95 percent of the population was eliminated. They were the mainstays of the Australian and New Zealand whaling industries until the late 1960s where the Humpback's slow speed and preference for coastal waters made them an easy whale to catch. By 1966 Humpbacks received full protection from commercial whaling but the Japanese continue to lobby the International Whaling Commission to lift the ban. Humpback Whales also face threats from entanglement in shark nets and fishing gear, collisions with ships, oceanic noise pollution and the dumping of waste at sea.
Did you know?

Humpback Whales have complex songs that are a language unique to specific populations.


Looking for things to do in New Zealand while on holiday? The Whale Watch Reservations office can be found in the Kaikoura Railway Station building, Kaikoura.

All our Whale Watch tours check in and leave from here. Please book early as our Whale Watch tours are extremely popular.

Our Cafe is right next door for hot beverages, cold drinks and delicious meals. Film, postcards, books and clothing can be bought from Our Gift Shop adjacent to Whale Watch Reservations.