We were in Kaikoura, New Zealand – the best place in the world to see sperm whales all year round.
In the Pacific Ocean off Kaikoura, a 3km deep underwater canyon runs right up against the coast. Warm and cold currents mix in the canyon and sustain a nutrient rich ecosystem, attracting whales, dolphins and other cetacean species all through the year.
We boarded the Whale Watch Kaikoura catamaran and sailed off into the choppy sea. A crew member lowered a hydrophone into the water to detect the presence of any whales. Soon enough, the Captain alerted us to a whale surfacing close to our vessel. Oh the anticipation!
Despite the roughness of the sea that morning and the intense nausea it caused, the sight of the sperm whale emerging gracefully from the water was such an exhilarating moment! An adult male sperm whale grows to an average length of approx 16m (52ft) and weighs approx 41,000 kgs. A ‘behemoth’ in the true sense of the word!
The highly trained crew of Whale Watch Kaikoura is able to expertly identify the whales. If it is a semi-resident whale, it will even have an assigned name.
This particular sperm whale was called Tona. As he dived into the ocean, it looked like a shot straight out of a Nat Geo documentary. Only this time, the scene was unfolding right in front of our eyes. A real life Moby Dick (the magnificent sperm whale brought to life by Herman Melville in his novel of the same name).
The sperm whale feeds at the bottom of the ocean and resurfaces every 45-50 mins to breathe. We too, waited with bated breath for Tona to make an appearance again.
In the meantime, a pod of very social Dusky Dolphins kept us entertained with their antics. Some distance away, a lone Wandering Albatross settled on the water to enjoy the sun.
New Zealand is a stunningly scenic country with something for everyone. But Kaikoura will always hold a special place in our hearts. All thanks to Tona, the majestic sperm whale!
Haere ra! Farewell!
For a quick overview of our month-long trip to New Zealand, read In the land of the long, white cloud
For more on our traditional hāngi experience, read Hangi’ing out in Rotorua, NZ