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

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

The Perfect English Countryside Escape… In New Zealand

This week the Huffington Post, an American online newspaper, featured an article on ‘The Perfect English Countryside Escape…..in New Zealand’.

Where about’s in New Zealand you ask? Answer: Akaroa Harbour!

After forgiving them for forgetting that this is 100% pure new zealand in their articles title we can firmly say that the feature is a testament to the international appeal of our stunning and perfectly preserved peninsula and village.  Perhaps it’s why the worlds rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector’s, choose to call this place home???

We just wonder what they would make of Akaroa harbour if we were to take them out dolphin swimming with the Hector’s dolphins…or on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise…….

If The Huffington Post decide to travel over this way, an invitation awaits………

akaroa harbour

The images from the article speak for themselves……

akaroa harbour

Akaroa truly is the perfect getaway escape if you are planning a holiday in New Zealand. With the stunning landscape (a photographers dream destination), variety of accommodation and dining options, and of course things to do (cue Black Cat Cruises), what more could you ask for?

A link to the full article from The Huffington Press and pictures can be found here….

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/akaroa-harbour-new-zealand_n_5185891.html

Akaroa Museum

This is a great Akaroa activity that won’t take up too much of your time, and will send you away with some great facts on this historic French village.

After having to close for repairs and restoration after the February 2011 earthquake, in July last year, the Akaroa Museum opened its doors to the public once again and as of July 1st it became FREE TO ENTER.

Akaroa Museum

Akaroa museum

Located at 71 Rue Lavaud, the museum provides a fascinating history of Akaroa and its surrounding areas, and is a great reason to get your inner historian out and about in the harbour.

At the moment, Akaroa Museum is hosting an exhibition about the Maori heritage of the bay with a display entitled “Horomaka,” as well as letting the public meander through the fully restored Court House with its new mini theatre – perfect for viewing the local documentary,  “Akaroa – The Long Harbour.”

In short, Akaroa Museum is once again fully equipped to satisfy your local historical needs, or occupy a rainy afternoon in the bay.

For a taste of what to expect from your visit to Akaroa Museum, here are five of the best exhibitions they have showcased over recent years:

1.)    Akaroa on Holiday

Featuring artefacts that document Akaroa’s history and development as Canterbury’s premier tourist destination, the ‘Akaroa on Holiday’ exhibition took a look at past promotional efforts to get the town to where it is today.

By the 1920’s Akaroa was well established as a holiday destination and was actively promoting itself to tourists

Visit Akaroa

With town now known for the campers, bach-owners, day-trippers, honeymooners and cruise ships that populate the harbour during summer months, it seems to have worked pretty well.

Did you know Black Cat Cruises were the first tourism operator in Akaroa to offer nature cruises out on the harbour?

2.)    Mystery and Delight at Every Turn

A series of black and white photographs taken by local Peter Beaven in the 1960s gave an incredible look at Akaroa frozen in time. With a focus on what the photographer saw as the things that gave Akaroa its charm and character, the snaps really highlight what is important about the architecture and feel of the seaside village.

3.)    Obscure and Obsolete Objects

Diving into the depths of the storeroom, the Akaroa Museum curators came up with a collection of weird and wacky objects, from curd-cutters to fly traps, to decorate the exhibition room in September 2003. Visitors had to guess what the objects were before finding out if their predictions were correct at the end of the exhibition.

4.)    Harley Davidsons

One for a bit of a tough guy crowd, back in February 2004 the Akaroa Museum put on an exhibition especially for the Harley Davidson enthusiasts making their way over the hill and into the harbour for a rally the town was hosting. The display included a 1928 Harley with a sidecar that had been used by the local butcher’s for deliveries back in the day.

5.)    Disasters, Mysteries and Sensations

As does every small town, Akaroa has had its fair share of trials and tribulations over the years. This exhibition paid homage to dramatic events such as raging epidemics, fatal fires, and mysterious disappearances that challenged the village and shaped its future.

For further information visit the Akaroa Museum website

Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights – Street Party Tonight!

Every year, in the middle of a cold  Christchurch winter, Lyttelton residents bring a bit of brightness back to Banks Peninsula with the harbour’s Festival of Lights. This years it’s running from June 19th – 21st The Highlight…….?  The ‘Matariki’ Street Party!

 

When: Friday June 20th, 5.30pm – FIREWORKS 7.30pm

 

Where: London Street, Lyttelton

 

What: A fantastic winter street party. Usually held to coincide with both the Matariki Maori New Year celebrations and the winter solstice, Lyttelton’s London Street transforms into a buzzing and beautiful scene. Light displays, sculptures and installations, music, dance and spoken word bring the community out of hibernation for this spectacle. Throw in a Friday night Street Party crammed with stalls amongst lanterns and light based artworks, followed with a spectacular fireworks display, and it’s easy to see why people in the know come out of the cold for this yearly event.

 

History: The Project Lyttelton team began the event in 2005 as something for the 3000 passengers on board a cruise ship moored in the port for the Lions Rugby Tour. But after seeing the spirit from the community in response to being part of the festival, they decided it was something that needed to stay. So each year the organisation collaborates with the council, libraries, and local businesses, working together to ensure there’s always something on for everyone. And this year is no exception.

 

Getting there: Take bus 28 or 35, carpool or use the free shuttle bus from the gondola (from 5:30pm). Parking is strictly limited. If you’re coming from Diamond Harbour the Ferry will be running it’s usual service all night. For the schedule click here
Tip: Bring your own reusable cup or buy one of ours at the festival tonight. If you’re a true foodie don’t miss the Mid-Winter Chirstmas Market tomorrow from 10am – 1pm!

 

You can be sure that the spectacle is worth the trip out to the harbour. There’s no better excuse for getting out in the winter weather to welcome in the Maori New Year and celebrate the winter solstice than heading over to the Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights.

 

Lyttelton Harbour Lights up the sky at the Festival of Lights

 

Find out more about the Festival of Lights on their Facebook page:

 

 

or to find out what’s going on in Lyttelton, visit their website: http://www.lyttelton.net.nz/festivals/festival-of-lights

72 hours in Canterbury

What would you do if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury ? Come to Akaroa of course………

Imagine you were told you could write a wishlist of the best New Zealand activities Canterbury has to offer….and it would come true!

Well Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism recently ran a” Win your dream 72 hours in Canterbury” campaign  over in Australia asking entrants to describe how they would spend their 72 hours.  The prize; your dream 72 hours will come true!

The competition came to a close and the lucky winner has just spent this past weekend having the time of his life with his wife visiting Christchurch, Akaroa, the Waipara Wine Region AND Hanmer……..His winning itinerary you ask?

DAY 1

Location: Christchurch

 

    • After flying into Christchurch it was a trip straight to the i-site to book all of their tickets.

 

    • Then it was a visit to the re-start mall to take in what’s happening within the Christchurch CBD
      Re:Start Mall in Christchurch

      things to do in christchurch or akaroa

 

 

 

    • For lunch it was off to Madras Street for Pizza followed by some fun wheel action on the Segway Urban Wheels.

 

    • A leisurely afternoon was then spent punting on the Avon. An iconic and classic Christchurch activity, before settling in for the night at a hotel in Christchurch.

 

DAY 2

Location: Akaroa

Day 2 is ”all things French” as they headed off to Akaroa. En-route from Christchurch they stopped off for an early morning Gondola ride to take in the majestic views down Banks Peninsula

After taking the 90 minute scenic drive to Akaroa there was time for a stroll in the streets to enjoy the shops, galleries and a french inspired lunch

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Akaroa Harbour & wildlife cruise

Straight after lunch it was all aboard the Black Cat boat to enjoy an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. An opportunity to enjoy the marine and bird life whilst taking in the breathtaking views of the extinct volcanic harbour. The team at Black Cat were so pleased to host the winner and his guest. It’s wonderful to play a part in makeing a dream trip come true!

After two hours on the water with Black Cat it was back on land for a drive along the summit road. A spectacular peninsula drive with great New Zealand photography locations along the way!

All finished off with dinner at Vangionis

DAY 3

Location: Waipara Valley, Hamner Springs

Sad to leave Akaroa it was then on to a day of pure indulgence as they headed to the Waipara Valley and Hanmer Springs.

The 3 hour drive to Hanmer was broken up by visiting numerous wineries along the way in Waipara wine region and lunch at a local winery.

Waipara Wine Region in Canterbury, New Zealand

Waipara Wine region things to do canterbury

Arriving in Hanmer called for one thing only – a stop off at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa followed by a body treatment for him and her – one word, Divine!

Late afternoon was then spent meandering through the shops and boutiques in Hanmer before choosing a spot for dinner and home to beautiful retreat for bed!

What a wonderful 3 days!!!

There is so much on offer in the Canterbury region we would find it hard to choose (apart from the Black Cat experience in Akaroa of course!) What would your dream itinerary be if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury? We recommend using the Christchurch and Canterbury Toursim website to help plan your trip!