Captivated by the giants of the deep
Glancing around the Whale Watch Kaikoura reception, tourists lined up on either side of me are bubbling with excitement as they check in.
Basic safety briefings and standards are carefully communicated on an overhead screen with an emphasis on child safety, which makes everyone feel more at ease and comfortable. We make our way to the bus and are welcomed by our bus driver Willie, who then tells us that this is “a pearler of a day” with near perfect conditions. After the short bus drive over the peninsula to South Bay, we are taken to the marina. Here our vessel is waiting for us with four crew members. We are seated and spoken to by our guide, Aroha, who introduces us to our captain for the day, Paki, and fellow crew, Wiremu and Haley. Her relaxed nature and local wisdom is comforting as she navigates her way through safety procedures. Within minutes, we begin our journey out to sea and are instantly welcomed by marine wildlife, as birds soar overhead and seals bask in the seas stillness. Aroha directs our attention back to the main purpose of our visit; to see some of the world’s largest and most treasured creatures, whales. She tells us that Sperm whales are what we are most likely to see today as they found feeding in the Kaikoura canyon year round. Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and can reach an average of 16 metre in length and have the largest brain of any animal on earth. Aroha also tells us about how Sperm whales use a liquid substance called spermaceti to regulate their buoyancy. Spermaceti can solidify or become liquid depending on whether the mammal wants to dive
down for food or come back up for air. She also tells us about other whales such as the Humpback, Blue Whale & other species of marine life sighted throughout the year. Suddenly, we hear news that there is already a Sperm whale on the surface. The boat positions itself next to the whale. Exciting chatter and the wowing of ecstatic voices lls the air around me as we all look in amazement. The whale is submerged upon the surface with its head in full view.
I quickly snap photos and then put my camera down to enjoy this moment of having such a vast magnficent and astonishing creature right in our backyard. As the boat idles, everyone falls silent as they watch the whale spend time taking in oxygen as he lays content in the calm water. Over the microphone Aroha tells us that this is Tiaki, a semi-residential whale to the Kaikoura canyon. The crew can distinguish individual whale by their unique
tails and dorsal.
We are able to watch the whale for another 10 minutes before it begins to arch its back and dive back down with its signature tale ick. Left in its place is its footprint: A displacement of water due to the descending tale brush, which once was believed by early settlers to be oil left behind from the whale.
The experience is exhilarating, and left with the rush of the breath-taking sight, we begin our leisurely retreat back to dry land. Gliding through the water with sea spray at our sides, we recline in our seats and watch a video about the Kaikoura canyon; a submarine canyon that connects into a deep sea channel system.
It is a bitter-sweet moment as we wave goodbye to the crew from the departing bus. Kaikoura truly is a marine mecca.