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

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Banks Peninsula Must-Dos – A Guide to Lyttelton Bars

Lyttelton is a great family destination – the rich and interesting history and nature of the place puts something on offer for everyone. But if you’re after somewhere to wet your whistle after a long day of exploring, or something exciting for the 18+ crowd to do in the quirky port town, then check out one of these fine local establishments for a bit of Lyttelton fayre and late night fun.

Porthole Bar:

porthole lytteltonSituated on the site where the popular Volcano Bar and Café once stood, Porthole is another example of Cantabrian ingenuity that’s come out of the other side of the quake.

Although one of several container bars around the city, Porthole has a uniquely Lyttelton flavour.

The live music, craft beer, and loyal customers all come from the portside village, and the porthole windows cut out of the container are an appropriate finishing touch – head down for a beer and a bite on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

Wunderbar:

wunderbarA popular watering hole for the locals, Wunderbar is perfect for a taste of the creativity that Lyttelton is so famous for. Renowned for its quirky décor – which includes a collection of infamous doll’s heads amongst other bits and bobs – Wunderbar is a little left of centre.

A visit on any given Friday or Saturday night could get you caught up in anything from a poetry reading to a burlesque show to a local folk act.

Definitely a must-do if you’re after something a little different out of your visit.

Civil and Naval:

Civil and naval barA great example of that ‘cult bar’ theme Lyttelton has going on nowadays,

Civil and Naval has cosy-chic written all over it.

A tapas bar, restaurant, beer garden and coffee shop all rolled into one nautical-but-not-in-a-cheesy-way package, this casual dining experience fits perfectly into the town’s atmosphere.

 

It possibly has the best wine and cocktail list in town too.

Using fresh, locally sourced ingredients for creative and tasty dishes, Civil and Naval fits in with the community ethos so well known on the streets of Lyttelton.

 

Tommy Chang’s:

Tommy ChangsTucked away amongst the cool of London Street, Tommy Chang’s is an ode to Lyttelton’s past and future.

Formerly known as Dave’s Place, the café and bar came about after owner, Dave Watchorn, lost an almost complete restoration of the Canterbury Hotel in February 2011.

Although a tragic loss, Tommy Chang’s is yet another amazing Lyttelton establishment that’s come out of the resilience of this community.

With live gigs, superb fare, and, of course, that rich and interesting history, the place is a classic dining experience in the port town.

Hector’s Dolphin Killed By Set Net in Akaroa Harbour

Yesterday, Monday, April 6th, a dead Hector’s dolphin was discovered in Akaroa harbour. The cause of death was drowning by set net. This happened just days after the legal set netting summer ban had been lifted.

A local man found the dead dolphin and alerted Black Cat Cruises, who in turn alerted both DOC and local researchers, and sent out a boat to locate the dead mammal.

Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest and rarest marine mammal and are endemic to New Zealand. As a company and a community we are extremely disappointed to see this happen.   The region has taken great steps in the creation and opening of the marine mammal sanctuary and newly opened marine reserve.

 

University of Otago marine biologist Professor Elisabeth Slooten happened to be in Akaroa for Easter and we able to examine the dead dolphin. Together they have studied Hector’s dolphins for more than thirty years and have dissected more than 130.

 

examining dolphin 2 webThe young male Hector’s dolphin, which was 123 centimetres long was likely to be only four or five years old. “A firm estimate of age can only be gained from looking at growth layers in the teeth” Prof Dawson said.

“Going from its size and lack of tooth wear, this dolphin was probably 4-5 years old. They can live to well over 20 years. The dolphin was in good condition, apparently healthy, and would have reached maturity within the next couple of years”

It is extremely sad that at one end of the harbour we now have this wonderful marine reserve yet at the other end it is legal for 6 months of the year to set nets which are proven to be deadly to this endangered species.

Setting nets for flatfish in the inner parts of Akaroa Harbour is legal from April 1 to 30 September. ‘’The problem is that dolphins use this area surprisingly often, even in the depths of winter’’, Prof Dawson said.

Biologists estimate only 7000 Hector’s dolphins remain in South Island waters.

There is currently a petition started by marine experts to ban nets and trawling in the areas that Hector’s dolphins inhabit. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/818/564/528/ban-gillnets-and-trawling-in-mauis-and-hectors-dolphin-habitat/#next_action

dolphin profile webBlack Cat Cruises, who are recognised as New Zealand first ever eco-tourism operator, employs over 50 members of staff alone and have been cruising the waters of Akaroa for 30 years.   Whilst tourism is the backbone of business in Akaroa, which the dolphins single handily spearhead, this isn’t an argument about commercial loss or gain. The fact is that the set netting that is occurring in Akaroa harbour is for recreational purposes.

To call for a complete ban on year round set netting would not have an impact to anyone’s livelihood. ‘’To wipe out the world’s most endangered species of dolphin would be a huge loss commercially but an incomprehensible loss environmentally’’ said Natasha Lombart, Black Cat Cruises Sales and Marketing Manager.

 

In over 30 years of operation it was this summer that Black Cat Cruises captured their most magnificent footage of the Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa harbour on both their dolphin swim, and Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. They are the reason that visitor’s come to Akaroa from New Zealand and all over the world. We look forward to the day that we can post on this blog that there has been a complete set net ban. If you agree please comment below…

 

Akaroa Harvest Festival

When you think of Banks Peninsula do ever think of fresh smoked salmon, award winning olive oil, juicy chorizo and New Zealand wine?

Well…you should, because our beautiful Banks Peninsula has even more to offer than just world class scenery and wildlife, we have an abundance of award winning food too!

This weekend us folk in Akaroa will be celebrating our fourth Annual Akaroa Harvest Festival. It promises to showcase an array of excellent local produce……and you are all invited!

The Details

When: Saturday April 11thAkaroa Harvest festival

Where: The Akaroa Area School

Time: 10 am to 4.00pm.

This year’s festival boasts at least 30 stalls all offering prime locally-sourced produce ranging from mussel and paua fritters to Pig in a Day – all things pork including a workshop – ‘Three things Italian’,

As always, the atmosphere will be enhanced with live music and local wine, and to create a fun fairground vibe the day will play host to traditional games such as the egg-and-spoon race and sack race.

Food Glorious Food

Let your taste buds discover Banks Peninsula sourced honey, tasty French crepes, sumptuous berries, fresh local lamb,artisan cheese and quince, along with locally produced wines that will be available to both taste and purchase.

There will also be some competition on the day. Bakers will go head to head in a cake auction.

Top chefs will return to Akaroa by way of some marvellous cakes; all fighting for the highest bid to raise money for the Akaroa Health Hub.

Whilst other locals will compete for the ‘best jam’, and who better to judge this than Lou Bentley from the Akaroa Cooking School.

The festival truly celebrates some of the best food and wine in New Zealand – all produced on Banks Peninsula.

Best of all this is a free event, so come on over to Akaroa for a great day out and support the local folk…..

The Quail Island Easter Egg Hunt

Happy Easter holiday eve everyone!

If you have little people at home and are wondering what to get up to over the long weekend then look no further.

Black Cat Cruises will be hosting their annual Easter Egg Hunt on Quail Island. You’ll have two and half hours on the island to hunt for coloured tokens which can be swapped for up to 3 chocolate Easter eggs each! If you’ve never been to Quail Island before, which is a DOC reserve set in the middle of Lyttelton harbour, you’re in for even more of a treat. To see it for yourself watch our video here.

 

We’ll have 3 departures a day every day over the Easter break. Best of all it’s the same price as a standard Quail Island ferry ticket and under 5’s travel for free!

Whilst we don’t take bookings for the Quail Island ferry throughout the year, we do for the Easter weekend as it’s always a sell out! Tomorrow and Saturday are already booked up,so calling to pre-book is highly recommended. If you’d like to book just call 0800 436 574

Easter 2015

Akaroa like you have never seen it before

Thank you for creating such an incredibly perfect video to showcase Akaroa!  I was captivated by the video and will be sharing it with everyone, especially my overseas friends and family. Wow! 

Here are just a few lovely comments we received when we launched our brand new Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise video. Shot this summer it showcases our little slice of paradise from both land and air…..and of course we’ve uploaded the video below…black cat cruises akaroa

It looks beautiful – we’ve lived in chch most of our lives and ive blogged about a lot of stuff but not that part of banks peninsula – love the video! was that done using a quadcopter – great camera work and yes it has been an awesome summer!!

akaroa cathedral cave cruiseGreat video, I didnt even realise we had places like that so close by!

What a beautiful, tranquil video!

Great photography and a very special part of the world.

I was fascinated as I spent so much of my life at Le Bons bay and yet have never seen this footage of the Akaroa Harbour like this before.scenery nook akaroa

I was very impressed at the quality of the video, and loved the shots taken from the flying drone. It also did a great job of showing the characteristically stunning Geology we have here in NZ. I am actually studying Geology and would love to check it out on one of your cruises!

Great video – we are so lucky to have this in our own “backyard”

New Zealand fur seal nature cruiseWhat a beautiful video.  We have been to akaroa and the surrounding area but never on one of your black cat cruises

Cool video! Looks like an amazing experience.

 

 

 

 

Watch the 2 minute video here….

 

Akaroa makes it on TV with two rare wildlife sightings during Seaweek

Bottlenose dolphins and a ginger seal make rare ‘once in a lifetime’ Akaroa visit

Akaroa was treated to a rare ‘once in a lifetime’ sight of a pod of Bottlenose dolphins close to the town’s main wharf yesterday, well within sight of the town’s locals and visitors sitting in cafes on the waterfront.bottlenose dolphin in Akaroa

“It’s a fantastic sighting,” Black Cat Cruises Sales & Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart said. “We’ve never had them (Bottlenose dolphins) visit the main wharf before, or seen so many around the harbour; it just doesn’t happen”  The rarity of the sightings made it onto TV One Breakfast news. Local Christchurch reporter Holly Carran helped to share the story with thousands of viewers…..Tv one Breakfast news features Akaroa

The area is well known for the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin the Hector’s dolphin, but sighting of large numbers of Bottlenose dolphins is rare for the area.

“Our job is to show people the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin every day, something uniquely special in itself, however this season we have had such a treat with rare wildlife as well as Orca, Hector calves and even a ginger seal pup that was seen happily playing with its sleek fur seal playmates last week.”BCAK BCAK 2015 03 03 C1640 1945

Lombart said it had really been a ‘special summer’ with so many rare and unique sightings. “In a very rare sight, a female Orca and her two calves were seen playing with a pod of Hector’s dolphins late last year, last week was the first time anyone has ever seen a ginger seal and there’s been a few dolphin calves in the harbour which always great news for the endangered species.”

The pod of between 20 and 30 Bottlenose dolphins included several calves and have been sighted at various spots in the harbour this week.DSC 0008

“Customers and staff on our Akaroa Harbour Cruise were very excited,” Lombart said. “They said you could even hear their sounds. It really is a very rare opportunity as we never get Bottlenose dolphins inside the harbour and they’ve certainly never been right up against the wharf in town.”DSC 0067

She said it literally was ‘a once in a life time opportunity’ as Black Cat staff thought it had never happened before.

Lombart said the sightings were timely as New Zealand is celebrating Seaweek, New Zealand’s national celebration of our marine environment.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” she said. “It’s almost as if they (The Bottlenose dolphins) know its Seaweek.”

To watch the brekfast news report click here and scroll to 1hr17mins

THERE ARE ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT FOR YOU TO WATCH THE EPISODE

 

bottlenose 2

60 Seconds with…

Sonya!

sonya

What is your name and what is your role at Black Cat Cruises….

Sonya Watts – Photography & Customer Service

 

Where is your role based….

Akaroa

 

What three words would your friend’s use to sum you up?

Very, very funny

 

Tell us a secret or something unique about you….

I’m a man. shhh

 

What did you dream you would do when you grew up and why….

Supermodel, because I’m hot

 

Why did you want to work for Black Cat Cruises….

Because I fancied the boss

 

What do you love most about your job….

My boss

 

What’s different about Black Cat than any other place you’ve worked….

The team!

Describe one of your best days here….

Everyday, working here is awesome!!!

Of Demons and Dolphins

At the age of 71 Richard Jacobs wasn’t just worried about his age when he took the plunge and joined us on a dolphin swim. This inspiring story wraps both his fears and life-long dream all into one, and demonstrates the reward that awaits when you take on a challenge…..

By Richard Jacobs

Is it possible to experience an adrenaline rush, a huge privilege and achieve an almost life-time longing all at the same time?  I really wasn’t sure.  The opportunity was right there, staring at me, teasing me, challenging me.  I just didn’t know if I had the confidence, the ability or the nerve.

It was about 4pm on a windy afternoon, about as far from home as I could be, when I asked for more information.  Would I be safe?  Did I need special insurance?  How long would it take?  In truth, I think I knew all the answers but perhaps I was looking for an easy way out – “Sorry, sir, we can’t take people of your age”.  I heard the opposite!  “No problem”.  It’s probably the most often heard expression in this far off land and that’s what I was told, “No problem at all.” richard jacobs

Well, there was still a problem for me.  In plain language, I suppose I was scared of letting myself down, of looking in some way inept or even of a genuine health risk.

Dinner outside that evening, overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful bays, really did provide food for thought.  At some point during the evening it all seemed straight forward.  I would probably never have such a unique opportunity.  I would be highly unlikely to be at this particular location again and, most important of all, I was at risk of letting myself down for no good or logical reason.  I’ll do it!

It all sounds a bit dramatic but here are some of the considerations that I had decided would not deter me.  I’m 71 years old with a load of metal in my back from recent spinal surgery.  I have moderate heart failure and I suffer from occasional bouts of angina.  It was 15 years, to the day, since two paramedics saved my life in an ambulance after a heart attack and, oh yes, as well as having a pathological fear of sharks, I don’t like cold water!

The challenge?  It doesn’t sound much as I write it here.  I was going to swim with dolphins where the Southern Ocean meets the South Pacific.  Not just any old dolphins, however, these were Hector’s dolphins; one of the rarest, smallest and most endangered dolphins in the world.  It is estimated that there are only some 7,000 left and they can be found around much of the eastern coast of New Zealand.  The largest concentration is believed to be off Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular, south of Christchurch – and that is just where I was on that November day.

These pods or groups of dolphins are normally made up of eight or ten individuals.  Because of their relatively small size – they grow to only about 1.2 metres long and are about as big as a five year old child – they do not have the lung capacity of the larger dolphins and, therefore, cannot dive to great depths for their food.  Hence their love for the relatively shallow waters off this coast, where the water shelves down to only about 200 feet and, as the song goes, “the fishing is easy”.  Of course if they are fishing for food, they are not going to come and frolic with us swimmers who presume to invade their watery world.  Equally, like us, they may sometimes just not want to socialise and our skipper on the dive boat tells us we may not even see any at all.

Back to the plot.  I had been told to report at 8.30 in the morning but I was waiting on the wharf from nearly an hour before that time.  The night had been good but waking to a howling wind did nothing for my confidence and made me wonder if the trip might be cancelled.  Then at least I would have an excuse.  “Well, I signed up but the weather was too bad.”  “No problem”, came the familiar reply as skipper and crew arrived for the day’s work.

An initial shore briefing was followed by a ludicrous struggle to force my 18 stone bulk into an enormous wetsuit and boots, together with the morale boosting comment that, with the sea temperature at just 12 degrees C, the neoprene suit would keep me warm – ish!

More briefing as we sped up Akaroa harbour, with explanations about the necessary hand signals to use once we were in the water.  One for help and one for, “I’m fine”.

Ten minutes later, Hector’s dolphins were spotted and the powerful catamaran idled in the choppy water as eight of us climbed over the stern and into that very cold sea.  Not being used to swimming wearing a wetsuit brought its own problems.  My legs persistently wanted to be where my head should be!  The net result included several mouthfuls of salt water and a pretty ludicrous sight, I suspect, until I was told to bicycle with my legs.  Having attained more or less the correct posture, I hear a shout of, “Richard, behind you!”  Spinning in the water, I was just in time to see two sleek and beautiful shapes swim past me about three feet away.  I know I screamed with excitement but, thankfully, so did the rest of the party.

The water was rough and facing into the wind meant a face full of spray.  We swam for about five minutes and I came out early as my first efforts to stay head up had been a bit strenuous.  We then motored our way outside the confines of the bay and into the ocean.  Here it was not so choppy but there was a good swell running.  About a mile or so off shore, we suddenly had eight or ten dolphins swimming behind the boat and we all climbed down into the water.  It was this second swim which brought home the enormous privilege of being with these wild animals in their habitat.  jacob and hectorsTo add yet more wonder to the moment, a huge albatross flew over us.

I have never before experienced the euphoria that this swim generated.” 

I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t out of breath; I wasn’t even cold!  More importantly, I wasn’t going to miss out on such a special moment.  I freely admit to being a little proud of myself for having committed to this adventure.  I had talked of wanting to swim with dolphins for so many years and here I was, doing just that.

The pod swam in and around us for about 15 minutes, maybe more.  To be honest, I lost all sense of time.  This was a truly wonderful experience and I know I had a huge smile on my face and I have the pictures to prove it.

So, that adrenaline rush was matched by a huge sense of achievement and a long held ambition was realised.  It is matched by the knowledge that, whilst many other people have swum with dolphins, this was an intensely personal moment for me, when I defeated my demons.  At the time, it moved me to a tear or two but the sea water hid that from those around me.

”To be accepted into the world of this unique animal was one of life’s special moments and a huge privilege.  The effects of those few minutes will last a life time.”

Survival of the species – Rare dolphin calves sighted in Akaroa Harbour

tv1 screen shot 2

This morning we made TV1 Breakfast News with our rare sighting of dolphin calves in Akaroa Harbour. Each year we eagerly wait to spot the first calf of the season. To see a mother and it’s calf is always great news for the endangered species.

Hectors dolphin calves

Early summer has seen Hector’s dolphin calves spotted swimming with their mothers in the harbour, which is always exciting, Black Cat Cruises Sales & Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart said.

“Hector’s Dolphins are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Because of their coastal habitat and slow reproductive rate they are particularly vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear, especially gill nets, so we never fail to get enthusiastic when calves are spotted.”

Black Cat Cruises skipper Julian Yates said two Hector dolphin mothers and their calves were seen between Bush Bay and the salmon farm, half way across the bay in Akaroa Harbour.

“That there were two babies’ with two mums was just fantastic,” he said. “They were just cruising and the guest reactions on board were great – they were so excited to see such a rare species of new born babies, it was wonder, a real treat and so delightful.”

Yates said guests on the harbour cruise could clearly see the calves’ stripes from being folded up inside mother’s tummy as they able to swim as soon as they are born.hectors dolphin calf folded skin

Females usually have one calf every two to three years. The calves are 50 to 60 centimetres long at birth and stay close to their mothers who provide them with milk and protection for about a year until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Hector’s dolphins are among the most endangered in the world.

It has been an eventful week for Black Cat Cruises as a female Orca and her two claves were seen playing with a pod of Hector’s dolphins near the entrance to Akaroa Harbour last week.

Yates said it was extremely rare to see Orca’s interacting with Hector’s as Orcas are known for preying on dolphins.

To watch the TV1 breakfast news clip follow this link http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast/2014-12-18-video-6208476 and scroll to 1.08:25

tv1 akaroa harbour news

Banks Pensinsula Festival of Walking

Established by the local residents of Banks Peninsula, the walking festival was created to share thier passion for this special place with those from the wider community.

What’s it all about?

banks peninusla walking festival

The Banks Peninsula Walking Festival offers guided walks all over the peninsula including lyttelton, Little River, Akaroa and the outer bays. The guides, who are all volunteers, bring a huge wealth of knowledge and experience, which makes each walk a truly unique experience. It’s a one off opportunity to  gain guided access to tracks, reserves and private land.

Because of the success in recent years, for 2014 the festival has been extended to take in the four weekends of November. This will allow more opportunity for  more people to do the walks they want.

Participants will enjoy refreshing walks, and are guaranteed to have an enjoyable experience as they relax, meet new people and together absorb the stories and atmosphere of this fantastic land, right on the doorstep of Christchurch.

 

 

Who can join in?

Everyone! There are walks for all ages and fitness levels, covering everything from town, rural and wilderness walks.

Camping on Quail Island

camping on quail islandAs part of the festival this is also your one chance to spend a night camping on Quail Island! At Black Cat we often receieve queries regarding camping on the island which is a DOC site, however camping is not permitted at any time….until now.

On Saturday, November 22nd for one night only, you can. Bring your tent and some food for the BBQ that will be put on. There will even be games organised for kids. The price is $25 per adult and $12.50 for children. For more information on Quail Island click here.

There is even a Facbook page you can follow

It is essential that you pre-book you walk. Phone 03 328 9093

Event Information

  • Bookings are necessary for all walks.
  • Leaders are accomplished volunteers with a wealth of knowledge to share.
  • Participants are responsible for their own safety, equipment, food, clothing and vehicles.
  • Children under 10 can join a wlak forfree.
  • Please arrive 10 minutes ahead of your departure time.
  • To check for weather postponements/cancellations visit www.lyttelton.net.nz or call us on 328 9093