Welcome to Banks Peninsula, home of The Hector’s dolphins and eco-tourism pioneers Black Cat Cruises

Monthly Archives: January 2009


“Many thanks for the opportunity to experience, as a customer, the Blackcat Dolphin swim experience on Saturday 29th Nov. As you predicted, the weather and conditions were excellent! I spent 40 minutes in the water with 9 other tourists, and it was absolutely wonderful! We were “visited” by about 5 pods and were enthralled with their playfulness, beauty and curiosity of us [very mutual!]. Everyone was rapt with the staff, the service and the experience. At the appropriate time, I will be sharing all relevant information with the other 33 Concierge [I am part of an Adventure Tourism working group]. Cheers, Bryan. International Airline Concierge”

Today we went on your 1.30pm Harbour cruise. We wish to extend our appreciation to all crew members and especially to the captain Mark for his wonderful commentary.

He really does care about the harbour and its wildlife and this comes across in the commentary. Even though perhaps he gives a similar talk three times a day it did not sound at all jaded!! My sister in-law very much appreciated the stool she was given to sit on at the stern of the boat. Your photographer was the person who suggested this.
Rosemary Tingle.

I am writing to let you know how absolutely thrilled we were with your service on Saturday November 22. We had a memorial service and scattering of ashes ceremony for our former singing tutor and his long term partner. The ceremony went very well, aided by your most excellent crew, namely John and Ben. I did not hear the name of the third man but he did a great job too, overall the service was wonderful and we all loved the catamaran. I am recommending your company to anyone who wants to have a function that is a little different. I’m looking forward to my next trip, one of your nature cruises. Many thanks to your company and your terrific crew for helping to ensure our service was extra special.

I just wanted to say a very big thank you for organising such a fun Christmas party for us on Friday. We all had a blast & I had such great feedback from everyone about it. We got to see the dolphins, the crew were gorgeous & it will be one of our most memorable parties for years to come. Thanks for everything & I hope you have a lovely Christmas & New Year cheers


Around this time of the year Hector’s dolphins give birth. There are quite a number of little calves around at the moment, one of which is jet black. Crew on board the Canterbury Cat in Lyttelton have named the new born Obama! Calves are often quite dark when they are first born but quickly grow and lighten into the distinct three colours of adult Hectors.

Hector’s dolphins mature usually have one calf every two to three years. Hector’s dolphins mate in late spring (New Zealand spring = September/October/November) and calves are born about a year later. The calves are 50-60cm at birth and stay close to their mothers who provide them with milk and protection until they are old enough to fend for themselves, usually at about one year old.


Fifteen year old Christchurch Avonside High School student Aescleah Hawkins has an unusual resolution for 2010 – this year, she has pledged to help stop the extinction of New Zealand’s endangered Hector’s dolphins. It’s an apt resolution for the new decade: the UN has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, officially launching in Berlin tomorrow (11 January 2010).

On 4, 5 and 6 March, Aescleah will walk the 42 kilometers from Lyttelton to Akaroa, aiming to raise vital funds for WWF’s Stop Their Extinction campaign, and spreading the message of the urgent need to protect Hector’s dolphins. She plans to bring together a team of 12 walkers, including herself, aiming to raise $36,000 for WWF’s conservation of the species.

“We are walking to Akaroa because that’s one of the places where Hector’s dolphins live. I hope that we can raise people’s awareness that the dolphins are now endangered, and we need to save them,” explains Aescleah. “Hector’s dolphins are just amazing, wonderful animals and we can’t let them go extinct. I want to see change come about, from our walk,” she concludes.

Hector’s dolphins need significant change if they are to survive. The species, which lives only in the coastal waters of New Zealand’s South Island, has lost nearly three quarters of it numbers since the 1970s, from 29,000 to an estimated 7,270 today. Hector’s are classified as one of the rarest marine dolphins in the world and ranked as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. For these reasons, WWF-New Zealand ranks the survival of Hector’s dolphins a national conservation emergency.

When Aescleah found out about the plight of Hector’s dolphins, she immediately wanted to help: “I’d done a walk for wildlife in the UK for WWF, and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to do something here in New Zealand for local wildlife. I contacted WWF-New Zealand, found out about Hector’s dolphins being endangered and it was like – this is something I have to get involved in.”

When Aescleah talked about the idea of a sponsored walk with her family and WWF, the idea of making a symbolic journey from Christchurch to Akaroa emerged, and Aescleah’s initial interest quickly snowballed with friends, family and local tourism operators getting involved. Aescleah is hoping to bring together a team of 12 walkers including herself, with each walker pledging to raise $3000 each. Confirmed walkers so far are Aescleah’s mother, Sara-Jane Hawkins, three of Aeshleah’s friends, and Paul Bingham, Managing Director of Black Cat Cruises, and Aescleah aims to find another 6 walkers to take up the challenge. The walkers are being guided by Tuatara Tours, which is generously discounting its services at cost.

“Aescleah’s passion for Hector’s dolphins is just wonderful – it’s great to see how she’s getting everyone around her excited by the idea of doing something positive to help protect Hector’s dolphins,” comments WWF-New Zealand’s Executive Director Chris Howe.

“It will raise vital funds for WWF’s campaign to save Hector’s dolphins, and we’re very grateful for Aescleah and her team’s support in this respect. But the message that it sends is just as important in showing the Government that New Zealanders are passionate about our wildlife, and want Hector’s dolphins protected. The more people who give their support, the more powerful that message will be, so we’re encouraging everyone who wants to protect Hector’s dolphins to please support Aescleah’s Walk for Hector’s.
This is a national conservation issue that every New Zealander can get involved in solving, and we encourage people across the country to back Aescleah’s cause,” he said.

Though Aescleah only celebrated her fifteenth birthday in November 2009, she explains her decision walk for Hector’s as just down to her “lifelong commitment to wildlife”.

“I went out on a tour with the Black Cat Cruises and we saw four mothers and calves – it was just amazing,” says Aescleah.

“We’ve got involved to draw awareness to just how rare Hector’s dolphins now are,” comments Paul Bingham, Managing Director of Black Cat Cruises. “Black Cat only exists because of our partnership with the dolphins and the unique marine environment we operate in. We give people the opportunity to experience Hector’s dolphins, and we are committed to protecting the dolphins. When this opportunity came up to get involved in Aescleah’s walk for Hector’s, we got right behind it as another way of supporting our ongoing work to support the conservation of this endangered species.”