One of the most popular things to do in Kaikoura and one of the main reasons tourists continue to flock here is for the dolphin encounter. A fully immersive experience, you have the chance to get up close and personal with some of the most majestic animals on earth.
Kaikoura Dusky Dolphins
The dolphins that call Kaikoura home are the dusky dolphins, a particularly curious, acrobatic and active species of dolphin. They hang out in pods in and around South Bay.
Kaikōura is recognised as one of the best places in the world to regularly encounter wild dolphins in their natural environment.
Kaikoura is lucky to have some of the most incredible marine animals thanks to the Kaikoura Canyon, an offshore underwater canyon some 60km long reaching up to 2000m deep! This depth provides an abundant food chain, bringing seals, dolphins, whales and plenty of other wildlife to the Kaikoura coast.
Tours depart daily at 8:30am and 12:30pm, with an additional 5:30am departure in peak summer season. The tour runs for approximately four hours, beginning at the Dolphin Encounter office on Kaikoura Beach. Dolphin Encounter owns three boats, each with the capacity to have up to sixteen swimmers and plenty of watchers (so book early to guarantee your spot!).
Once you arrive for your tour, you'll get fully kitted out with a wetsuit, flippers, boots (winter), gloves (winter) and a cap as well as your snorkel; all the gear you'll need for snorkeling with dolphins! You then watch an informative video including a safety demonstration before you climb on the bus to drive a few minutes out to South Bay. Here, you board your boat to head out into the open waters to find the incredible dolphins of Kaikoura!
Swimming with Dolphins in Kaikoura
This has been one of the most surreal experiences of my time in New Zealand. Swimming alongside these majestic creatures in their natural environment is so moving and magical. I felt privileged to be able to get so close to the curious animals as they swam and twirled around us while we paddled around them!
We did four swims with the dolphins lasting about an hour, finishing off with time to warm up on the boat with hot chocolate while we had the opportunity to take plenty of photos of the dolphins swimming alongside.