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Dolphin Encounter Update Spring 2017

Posted by Tracy Cooper (0 Comments)
Thursday, 19 October 2017 in Default

Welcome to the Dolphin Encounter® Update Spring 2017

Tourism numbers throughout winter have been up and down, a trend that has been expected following the Kaikoura earthquake in November last year. It’s hard to imagine that almost a year has gone by. Work continues fixing the roads, railway and harbour to restore the infrastructure back to pre-quake days. It’s a massive task and one that’s far more complicated than people may realise with work continuing in South Bay Marina, where we operate from. The harbour works are on track to restore the harbour and jetty back to its pre-quake status for the upcoming summer season,.....we can’t wait!!

The beauty of the area and the wildlife occupying the Kaikoura area remains breathtaking and typical winter weather created a stunning backdrop of the snow-capped Seaward Kaikoura Mountains creating a fabulous opportunity to snap images of acrobatic dusky dolphins or capture a soaring albatross in front of a magnificent winter scene.

We’ve been working with dolphins both north and south of the Kaikoura Peninsula with a varied travel time ranging from 25-60 minutes. On some occasions, pods of dusky dolphins have been accompanied by pods of common dolphins and occasionally, the odd Hector’s dolphin has been sighted too.

The water temperature has varied between 9-12°C with most swimmers surprisingly admitting that the temperature was not as bad as they had expected! Certainly the hot showers and hot drinks do a great job of warming people up afterwards.

One of the absolute highlights was witnessing an enormous pod of southern right whale dolphins or Lissodelphis peronii. Sightings of lisso’s as we call them are rare these days although they used to be much more frequent 15 years ago. They are a striking species of dolphin with a typical black and white colouration, but lacking a dorsal fin. At least one individual was melanistic with the lack of white colouration. Melanism is an overproduction of melanin resulting in a prevalent dark colouration and melanistic dolphins have been sighted in a number of species off Kaikoura from time to time.

Two pods of orca have been sighted this winter, a species that we don’t commonly encounter during the winter months. One pod is well known to us consisting of 1 female and 2 males. All three individuals have unique nicks on their dorsal fins enabling quick identification of Nicky, Koru and another adult male that is seen in their company. This particular pod travels around both the North and South Island and were resighted in Dunedin just five days later. 

The National Water and Atmospheric Research group or NIWA have been surveying the Kaikoura Canyon system with their vessel M.V Tangaroa. Previous studies identified the canyon system as a biodiversity hotspot containing more biodiversity than has previously been documented in comparable systems worldwide. During the Kaikoura earthquake, underwater landslides caused massive devastation within the Canyon system smothering the sea floor with a wall of mud and wiping out any signs of life on the canyon floor. Of course this was a huge concern to the ecosystem and all marine life relying such an abundant system. Returning back to Kaikoura just recently the Niwa survey were pleasantly surprised to see signs that the sea bed communities with juvenile organisms are recovering and colonising the sea floor once more which is awesome news.

Travel to Kaikoura still requires prior planning. Access continues to be restricted with State Highway 1 only open Friday-Monday between 7am-7pm with alternative access to and from Kaikoura via the Inland Road. The road north to Blenheim is not expected to open until Christmas time, so some extra planning is required for those travelling to and from the north especially with ferry connections in Picton, allow 7-8 hours. Please make sure that you check the road status prior to travel. The following link will assist with planning  as well as the NZTA South Island Facebook page for current updates.


So, that’s all our news for now, till next time……..

 © Dolphin Encounter» Orca, Bent Tip and Groovy
 © Dolphin Encounter» Dusky Dolphin
 © Dolphin Encounter» Southern Right Whale Dolphins
 © Dolphin Encounter» Black (Melanistic) Southern Right Whale Dolphin
 © Dolphin Encounter» Dolphin Swimmer
 © Dolphin Encounter» Ocra, Female Nicky and Male Orca
 © Dolphin Encounter» New Guide, Riona
 © Dennis Buurman» Our New Dolphin Vessel Moana Nui
 © Dennis Buurman» Re Building the Highway North of Kaikoura
 © Dennis Buurman» Dolphin Encounter Jetty Under Construction
 © Dennis Buurman» Dolphin Encounter Jetty Completed October 17th
 © Dennis Buurman» Birds Eye View of South Bay Marina in October


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