Written by Pamela Kniss
Pamela’s Pick Kaikoura:
Kaikoura, in my opinion, is one of the most stunning of the many beautiful
destinations in New Zealand. Located on the east coast of the South Island between Picton and Christchurch, Kaikoura is “Switzerland on the Ocean” with its deep blue sea and lofty snow covered peaks.
Koura is the Maori word for crayfish and kai the Maori word for food. Put these two words together and you have food to die for— crayfish that melts in your mouth. Pair it with a glass of world class sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough wine region just up the road, and you have a gourmet treat you won’t soon forget. I ate my first crayfish cold, as do the locals. It was served with my first glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc during my first journey to New Zealand in 1993. All firsts! I will always remember!
Whale Watch Kaikoura is an award winning New Zealand nature based company owned and operated by the indigenous Ngati Kuri Maori people of Kaikoura. It was evident to me the first time I went out with Whale Watch Kaikoura that they are intimately involved with and protect the natural treasures that surround them. This really is much more than ‘watching’ whales. It is participating in the story of the place, the peoples and the rich diverse marine environment.
One of the stories they told was about a whale that they suspected had been in these waters for years and still had the memory of the whaler’s harpoon. We were told to be careful not to drop a metal bucket or other object that made a metal crashing sound. That whale associated that sound with injury and death and would immediately dive, not to be seen again that day. I was impressed by their knowledge and the care they expressed.
At over 500 meters deep, the waters surrounding Kaikoura are one of the most biolog- ically rich ocean environments in the world. Just offshore, in the enormous trench called the Kaikoura Canyon, two strong sea currents converge and create a great surface upwelling of vast quantities of plant and animal nutrients. Food is plentiful! Sperm whales frequent these waters year-round and humpback whales are often seen during the winter months as they migrate from the Antarctic to the tropics. It is no wonder that Kaikoura was once a busy whaling station.
The waters surrounding Kaikoura provide memorable opportunities for joining some of the other wild inhabitants in their own marine environment. How about snorkeling with fur seals in the shallow waters of the Kaikoura Peninsula? Lonely Planet lists Seal Swim Kaikoura as one of the top 10 Marine Encounters Worldwide.
Dusky dolphins inhabit this region as well. The pods may consist of individuals numbering anywhere from 100 to 800 in each pod. Now that is an example of a highly social animal! And the dolphins are fascinated by the bipeds who want to be in the water with them. Join Dolphin Encounter. The first time I snorkeled with dolphins, three of them decided to put on quite a show for us. They all jumped out of the water at the same time—just like dolphins in the marine shows I have seen. It was nothing short of thrilling!
Did you know that the wandering alba- tross has the greatest wingspan of any living bird—almost 4 meters across? Albatross Encounter will get you close to the albatross and over 14 species of pelagic birds. Whether you are a dedicated birder or just enjoy watching beautifully feathered flights, you will find this trip fascinating and well worth your time. When visiting Kaikoura, you will want to know more about the indigenous history and culture of the area. One of the best ways to do this is on a private tour where you have the opportunity to join a family with ancestral links to Kaikoura that span more than 800 years. Through these connections, they are able to share the history and legends of the area. Maori Tours Kaikoura provide experiences that are a combination of laughter, learning and storytelling, specially designed to give you deep insight into the bygone days and the spiritual values of Maori people, while providing an understanding of how they have adapted to the modern world of today.
A stay of at least two full days is required if you are to take advantage of the many must- do experiences Kaikoura has to offer. Discover Downunder recommends three so that you have a free day to explore on your own. Visit the i-SITE (Tourist Information Office) on the Esplanade and find out about local events, self-guided walks and other activities of interest.
Make Kaikoura a must-stop on your journey through New Zealand. Call Endless Travel and connect with Discover Downunder. New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific are waiting to welcome you!