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Before Your Tour

Everything you need to know about your Dolphin Encounter Tour

Find information & tips on how to get the most from your trip

  • Medical disclaimer form

    All swimmers must complete a medical disclaimer form and if possible return it to us in advance of the check-in time of the tour. The information is intended to enable our crew to ensure that you are well looked after while in our care.  There may be occasions when we advise that the swimming activity may not be suitable for you due to medical conditions that you have disclosed to us or if the sea conditions of the day are challenging, so please respect our discretion regarding this. The disclaimer form is available here as an editable PDF form. You will need to download it, fill it in, and email it back to us. If you are unable to submit it online, print it off, fill it in and bring it with you to the tour check in.

    Please also note if you have asthma or a respiratory condition and are prescribed with an inhaler, it is essential to bring your inhaler with you on the tour.

    Email Medical Disclaimer Form

  • Covid-19

    We are operating in line with The NZ COVID-19 Protection Framework and we are mandated to sight 'My Vaccine Pass' for all of our guests and visitors


  • Weather & water temperature

    The Kaikoura Coast is an exposed coastal area and the weather can be changeable. It is advisable to check the weather forecast before you travel to Kaikoura especially if you are travelling here for the day to specifically participate on the tour. You can check your phone app for Kaikoura’s weather or alternatively log in to the New Zealand Metservice on You can also check the weather and sea conditions by call us on 0800 733 365 and we will be happy to assist you.

    The water temperature rarely rises above 19 degrees celsius in the summer months and drops to around 8 degrees celsius in the winter months. To keep you comfortable in the water we provide good quality 5 mm wetsuits which consist of a full body one piece overall with a 5mm jacket which fits over the top, providing 10mm of insulation around your core.

    In the colder months of winter we provide you with additional gear of gloves and booties.

    All boats that we use for swimming with dolphins have deck showers available to help you warm up in between swims if necessary or when you have finished swimming.

  • What to wear

    It is advisable to wear warm clothing and sensible footwear when checking in for the tour.  Before departure, all swimmers will be supplied with a well-fitted wetsuit to ensure that throughout the swim they are as warm and comfortable as possible.

    Swimmers will wear the wetsuit from the departure point, during the short transfer to the harbour and for the duration of the tour until the swim part of the tour has been completed.  We advise all swimmers to take their warm clothing on board with them because at the end of the swim, the best idea is to take the wetsuit off and pull on warm dry clothing.  This helps you to warm up again while the tour concludes and while we travel back to the harbour.  A small bag which is large enough to hold your warm clothing and is taken aboard the boat is a good idea.   If you have not bought a bag with you, don’t worry as we sell re-useable bags at the check-in counter for a very small fee.


  • Equipment we provide for swimmers

    All swimmers are fitted with a good quality wetsuit prior to departure which comprises a full 5mm body one piece overall and a 5mm jacket.  We also provide a hood, mask snorkel and fins.

  • What to bring

    All passengers should bring phones and cameras to capture the most brilliant pictures imaginable. 
    We have GoPro cameras available for hire and it would be advisable to reserve one in advance as they are in high demand.

    Swimmers should also bring:

    • Swimsuit, towel, warm clothing such as a jacket and a hat, and a small bag which is able to accommodate your clothing on board the boat. It is also a good idea to bring sunblock and a sunhat. Towels can be hired for a small fee plus a bond and a small fee from the check in counter.

    • If you have forgotten to bring your swimsuit, we have a limited number of swimsuits available for hire so please enquire at the check in counter. 

    • Please also bring sea sickness medication with you if you are prone to motion sickness.

    Watchers should also bring:

    • Warm clothing.

  • Swimming in the open ocean

    The Kaikoura coastline is an expansive area of deep water open to the Pacific Ocean with no sheltered bays or fiords nearby. To gain the best experience from swimming with the dolphins we would recommend that previous snorkelling experience is definitely an advantage along with a good level of water confidence.  Being an experienced swimmer is also helpful but it is not essential to be a strong swimmer just so long as you are confident in the water.  We do have flotation devices such as kickboards and buoyancy aids if a little extra assistance is needed.  Please note that our crew do not enter the water on our tours.


  • Bringing children

    Children 8-14 years can swim with the dolphins

    Children 3-14 years can view the dolphins

    Children under 3 years of age are not permitted aboard our tours

    Sea conditions on the day need to be appropriate for children of any age to participate in a tour and the Skipper may review age limits on the day if conditions are not suitable.  In this instance a family may reschedule or cancel their booking without charge outside of our usual change and cancellation policy.

    Please note that the time at sea is 2.5 hours minimum.

  • Accessibility

    We try our best to accommodate all potential customers wishing to participate on our tours including those with limited mobility. However there are a few restrictions due to the nature of what we do and the limited space on the vessels that we use.

    Generally we are unable to take wheelchairs on board but we can accommodate passengers who are able to sit unaided. Swimming with the dolphins is a physically demanding activity which requires a reasonable degree of personal fitness. Participants must also be able to wear a wetsuit, and move themselves onto and off the boarding platforms at the stern of the vessels without assistance.

    Contact our Customer Service Manager at about what we can do to help facilitate the best possible tour experience for you and we will always try our best to assist.

  • Seasickness

    Sea sickness is often experienced and even in slight seas, some customers find themselves dealing with motion sickness. We recommend taking medication to combat this prior to your tour. We do sell Sea Legs and Ginger tablets at the check in counter if you have arrived unprepared.

  • Cancellation and refunds

    If you wish to make changes or cancel your reservation, we must be advised no later than 24 hours prior to the tour time of your booking. If changes or cancellations are not made within 24 hours of the tour departing, cancellation charges equating to the full fare per person will apply.

    If for any reason the tour is unable to locate dolphins or if the weather and sea conditions have changed and caused the tour to be shortened in comparison to the usual tour duration, we will refund a portion of your fare. All tours are subject to a minimum operating cost irrespective of what occurs at sea, but the balance of the fare will be refunded in these circumstances.

  • Group rates and private charters

    Private charter of any of our vessels can be made for groups and special requests with prior arrangement and of course subject to the vessel being available.  Requests should be made well in advance and sent to the Customer Service Manager on to be actioned.

Purpose Built Fleet

Encounter Kaikoura have a modern well maintained fleet of smaller boats which, unlike most other operators both locally and globally, offer a close-to-the-water experience for our customers.
Read more on Moana Nui

Moana Nui

Moana Nui is Maori for ‘large ocean’

Moana Nui Boat

Moana Nui is Maori for ‘large ocean’

Moana Nui

Moana Nui is a 16 metre catamaran, built in Auckland New Zealand in 2017 powered by twin 500HP Volvo diesel engines and has a cruise speed of 20 knots.

This vessel takes 16 swimmers and up to 25 spectators (watchers).

On board facilities include toilet and deck shower.

Read more on Lissodelphis


Latin name for southern right whale dolphins

Lissodelphis Boat

Latin name for southern right whale dolphins


Lissodelphis is a 13 metre catamaran, built in Auckland New Zealand in 1998, powered by twin 315HP Volvo diesel engines and has a cruise speed of 20 knots.

This vessel takes 16 swimmers and up to 15 spectators (watchers).

On board facilities include toilet and deck shower.

Read more on Delphinidae


Descriptive term for the family of dolphins

Delphinidae boat

Descriptive term for the family of dolphins


Delphinidae is a 14 metre mono hull, built in Bluff by Stabi-Craft Marine in February 2003. It is powered by a 680HP Volvo diesel motor and has a cruise speed of 22 knots.

This vessel takes 16 swimmers and up to 15 spectators (watchers).

On board facilities include toilet and deck shower.

Read more on Kotuku


Maori name for the white heron

Kotuku boat

Maori name for the white heron


Kotuku is a 10.5 metre mono hull built in Bluff by Stabi-Craft Marine in 1994, powered by twin 150HP Yamaha fourstroke outboards and has a cruise speed of 25knots.

This vessel is surveyed for 14 passengers.

On board facilities include marine toilet and deck shower.

Other Information & FAQs

Everything you need to know about your Dolphin Encounter Tour
  • How long do the tours last?

    Dolphin Encounter tours are approximately three and a half hours in duration from check in time to the return time at the operating base.

  • How long will I be on the boat?

    The time on the boat at sea is approximately 2.5 hours.

  • How long do we spend swimming with dolphins?

    The total time spent swimming with the dolphins will depend on a number of factors which can vary.

    • The behaviour of the dolphins at the time
    • The travel time to the dolphins and the sea conditions

    Generally if the dolphins are interactive the swim time can be from 20 to 40 minutes.

  • How close do we actually get to the dolphins?

    Quite close, usually about an arm’s length away. The dolphins are smart and they are extremely good at judging distance in the water and will come very close without touching you.

  • Is there a preferred time of day to do the tour? Will there be more dolphins in the morning or the afternoon?

    Generally we would recommend the morning departures as sea conditions can typically be calmer and the dolphins can be more interactive at this time.  The number of dolphins does not usually vary from tour time to tour time.

  • How many dolphins do we typically swim with?

    As we are interacting with wild dolphins, there is no way of predicting what will occur on each tour. Generally the pods of dolphins vary in size and due to nature and behavioural characteristics of the dusky dolphins, we have experienced successful swims with small pods as well as with large pods that can number into the hundreds.

  • Do we see whales on the tour?

    We do not have a permit which allows us to see the sperm whales. Whale watching tours by boat are operated by Whale Watch Kaikoura Ltd and there are also options to see the whales from the air with helicopters of fixed wing aircraft. 

    Boat Tours

    Whale Watch Kaikoura Ltd


    Fixed Wing

  • Are there any sharks?

    Our tours operate in the open ocean and this of course means that you may see all kinds of wildlife. While sharks inhabit the open ocean waters, we are fortunate in Kaikoura that there have been no serious shark attacks.

  • Am I guaranteed to see dolphins?

    Because 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 dusky dolphins. If for some reason we are not successful in locating dolphins due to situations such as deteriorating weather conditions, you will receive a partial refund. All our tours are subject to a minimum operational cost.

  • What if the dolphins do not play or 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 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 which have earned it the accolade of being a top location in New Zealand for successful dolphin tours. There is a variation between summer and winter locations for the duskies in that the summer sees them spending more time inshore and the winter months it is more usual to find them a little more offshore.

  • What is the temperature in the water?

    In summer the water temperature can reach 18° celsius and in winter it can drop to as low as 8° celsius. In winter we give additional gear including gloves and booties to help keep you warm.

  • Can I wear prescription glasses while I swim?

    Contact lenses can be worn with masks but glasses cannot. We have a range of prescription masks (corrective lenses) available for those who are near sighted.  The prescription ranges from -2.00 to -7.00 and can be hired for a small fee.

  • Are reservations essential?

    Yes definitely – we emphasise that reservations for the option of swimming with the dolphins is essential. The number of seats for swimming with the dolphins is limited to 16 on each boat per tour with the balance of seats available for watching. These swim seats fill very quickly especially in the height of tourist season.

    We do operate a waiting list for swimming if the tour you are wishing to book is showing as full. Please contact our Customer Service Team on 0800 733 365 or email to have your name recorded for the waiting list.