I had a few things on my bucket list for the year that I am spending in New Zealand and one of them was to see a whale. I have had two opportunities to see whales once in Iceland and once in Australia. Both times my trips were canceled due to weather.
Since I had an entire year to plan it out I waited to find a day where the weather was going to be perfect. I booked two days in advance to make sure I would have a ticket and I was willing to gamble the weather would hold with a two-day forecast.
Day 1 – Train Ride & Whale Watching 11.08.2019
A few things about New Zealand. First, they seem to love to drive everywhere just as much as Americans, their mass transit system is slightly better but they rely mostly on buses. Although they have trains, almost all of them are for cargo or tourists and not everyday travel (outside of Auckland & Wellington).
So, this means that taking the train is a scenic expensive way to travel, but highly worth doing at least once. To get to Kaikoura from Christchurch you can drive, take Intercity, or take the train. The train is offered by Great Journey of NZ and they have a few scenic routes all over New Zealand.
The route I took is the Coastal Pacific route which goes to Picton and stops in Kaikoura. The cost for this round trip ranges between NZD 120 – 330, depending on the day and whether you upgrade to their first class which is a scenic plus.
My favorite part about this scenic train is that they have a railcar that is open air. The ride starts by going through New Zealand’s countryside and it wouldn’t be a trip through New Zealand without seeing sheep. As the train approaches Kaikoura the tracks are parallel with the coastline.
I arrived in Kaikoura approx. four hours after leaving Christchurch. I headed to Whale Watch Kaikoura for my guide. I had to wait an hour or so since the train arrives well before the guide starts. The cost to do this is NZD 150 but I used bookMe and paid NZD 120. They have a 95% success rate and give an 80% refund if you do not see a Sperm Whale.
We headed out on the boat to do some whale watching, it was a unique experience, the captain stops a few times and uses a hydrophone to listen for the whales. Once she heard something, she moved the boat towards where she thought the whale was. We waited about five minutes and then boom the sperm whale breached.
In New Zealand they have to stay 50 meters from wildlife, I believe this whenever feasible because the boat later got chased by dolphins and they were right next to it. It was difficult to get some good photos but I was able to get a video of the whale diving back down.
After this, we headed back towards shore and stopped to see some dolphins. Then I went into town to get something to eat and sat on the beach waiting for the train to leave. Apparently, you need to be on the train twenty minutes before they leave because I approached 10 minutes before and the train started to leave without me on it and then they got mad at me hahaha.
Have you gone whale watching before? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading and liking my post, cheers!