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Encounter Foundation


  • How long do the tours last?

    • Dolphin Encounter tours are approximately three to three and a half hours in duration from check-in time to the time you get back to our booking office. Note: This can vary dependant on where the dolphins are located.
  • How long will I be on the boat?

    • Time on the water is around about two to two and a half hours.
  • How long do we spend swimming with the dolphins?

    • The total swimming time will depend on a number of factors:
    • -  The dolphins behaviour at the time
    • -  Travel time to the dolphins and the sea conditions
    • -  Generally, if the dolphins are interactive, the swim time can be 20 – 40 minutes
  • How close do you actually get to the dolphins?

    • Quite close, usually about an arm’s length away. The dolphins are extremely good at judging distance in the water and will come very close to you without touching you.
  • Will I be able to touch the dolphins?

    • We advise swimmers on our tours not to try and touch the dolphins and to swim with their arms by their sides. Reaching out to try and touch the dolphins usually causes them to move away from you.
  • Is there a better time of day to do a tour? Will there be more dolphins in the morning or afternoon?

    • Generally we recommend the morning (5.30am and 8.30am) tours as sea conditions can be calmer and dolphins can be more interactive, but the number of dolphins does not vary too much from tour to tour.
  • How many dolphins do you get to swim with?

    • As we are interacting wild dolphins, there is no way of predicting what will occur on each tour. Generally we have pods of dolphins which vary in size. We have had successful swims with small pods as well as with pods that number in the high hundreds.
  • Do we see whales on the tour?

    • We are not permitted to take you out to see the sperm whales. Whale watching tours operate daily with Whale Watch Kaikoura (
  • Are there any sharks?

    • Our tours operate in the open ocean and that means that you may see all kinds of wildlife. While sharks inhabit all waters in the open ocean, we are fortunate in Kaikoura that there have been no serious shark attacks.
  • Am I guaranteed to see dolphins?

    • As we swim with and watch wild dusky dolphins, we are never able to guarantee their presence. However, Kaikoura is renowned for its abundance and consistency of wildlife and once on the water we do have a very high success rate of locating the dusky dolphins. If for some reason we are not successful in locating the dolphins (due to such things as deteriorating weather conditions) you will receive a refund. All our tours are subject to a minimum operational cost. 
  • What if the dolphins do not want to play and interact with us?

    • Dolphin behaviour depends on their ‘mood’ and as with all wild animals their behaviour can never be predicted or guaranteed. There are times when we have to respect the dolphins by withdrawing the swimmers from the water, but continue to view the dolphins from the boat. All swimmers will then be refunded back to a spectator rate.
  • Is there a dolphin season?

    • Dusky dolphins can be seen all year round in Kaikoura, however the water temperature does change seasonally. In summer the temperature can reach 190 C and go down as low as 80 C in winter.
  • Do I need to bring my own wetsuit?

    • No, we provide you with the wetsuit and full snorkelling kit including: Two piece 5mm wetsuit, mask and snorkel, swimming flippers (fins) and a hood. During the winter we also supply gloves and booties. However, should you wish to bring all your own equipment or wetsuit you are welcome to do so.
  • What should I bring with me?

    • You should bring a bag to take your all your warm clothes, towel, hat, sun glasses and swim suit. Don’t forget your camera (with full battery) and lots of memory space for those fantastic photo opportunities. Video cameras are also a good option.  We also have GoPro cameras for hire (subject to availability).
  • Can I wear my prescription glasses while I swim?

    • Contact lenses can be worn with masks, but not glasses. We have a range of prescription masks (corrected lenses) available for those who are nearsighted. We have a range of masks with lenses from a -2.00 to -7.00.
  • Are reservations essential?

    • Yes booking in advance is highly recommended, especially in the summer season as the demand is high and we have a limited amount of swimming positions due to our marine mammal permits. We do operate a very effective waiting list system if your preferred tour shows as full.  Contact the Customer Service Team on 0800 733 365 to add your name to the list!
  • What is the cancellation policy?

    • If you need to change or cancel your reservation, you must notify us any time before 4pm on the day before your scheduled tour date and there will be no penalty. For those who do not advise us of their tour change or cancellation, full fare penalties will apply.
  • Can my child swim?

    • Absolutely, but as this is a open ocean experience there is an age limit for participating in the dolphin swimming activity, which is 8 years of age. Children should be accompanied by an adult at all times. Management reserve the right to impose greater restrictions should sea conditions deteriorate.
  • Can disabilities be accommodated aboard?

    • We try our best to facilitate this experience for all potential customers.  Naturally, there are a few restrictions due to the nature of what we do, the requirements of our robust Health & Safety procedures, and of course the prevailing sea conditions on any given day. As a general rule our boats are unable to accommodate wheelchairs, but we can accommodate passengers who are able to sit unaided. Swimming with the dolphins is an exertive experience which requires a degree of physical fitness; participants must also be able to wear a wetsuit, and move themselves onto and off the boarding platform at the stern of the vessel without assistance. Drop our Customer Service Manager a line via [email protected] about what you would need from us to facilitate your best tour experience and we will always do our best to help where possible.