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


Passengers aboard two of our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises yesterday (Thursday November 30th) were delighted to spot three Hector’s Dolphin calves.

Black Cat Cruises crew and guests spotted two mothers with their baby calves just past Onuku Bay in Banks Peninsula’s Akaroa Harbour during the afternoon, after seeing a solo Hector’s Dolphin with its calf during the 9am cruise.

“We are always so excited when calves are spotted as 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 spotting the calves today is a real treat for everyone.”

On-board Black Cat photographer Jono Hitchcox estimates that the calves were less than two weeks old as the foetal folds on the calves’ skin could be seen.

“We observed them from a distance for a few minutes and could see the mother was interested to show the calves the boat before getting some distance and disappearing.”

As SMART approved operators by the Department of Conservation (Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism) we ensure that we keep a safe distance from the dolphins and slow the boats down allowing them to approach us if they wish. We are very careful not to disturb their path as the mother and baby need to keep their strong bond.

“It’s fantastic to see these endangered dolphins with their calves. We’ll expect to see even more during the summer.”

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.

The calves will spend the next two years alongside their mothers before venturing off alone.

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

We feel so lucky that we get to view these rare and endangered species every single day and to share that experience with our local and international guests from all over the world!

As Akaroa’s first daily nature cruise operator and only Qualmark Gold rated cruise operator we are strong advocates for the safety and sustainability of the dolphins. We donate a portion from all of our Akaroa ticket sales towards the education and research of these special marine mammals.

Watch the footage of the mother’s with their babies below

Book your Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise today by calling 0800 436 574 or clicking here
Christmas Gift Vouchers
Don’t forget we also offer Gift Vouchers for our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise and Swimming With Dolphins experience which would make such a unique perfect Christmas present! Call the Akaroa team on the number above to grab one today.

See further press articles on this story



As we head into the summer season and most likely spend more time on and around the shores please do have a quick read on the importance and guidelines to sharing our coasts with marine mammals…



Quail Island has a fascinating past set within the stunning surroundings of Lyttelton Harbour. Enjoy a half day or full day trip to the island when you jump on Black Cat Cruises Quail Island ferry. In just fifteen minutes you’ll be standing on your island escape, ready for relaxation or adventure. Native vegetation, an abundance of native birds, shipwrecks, a swimming beach, and signs from the days of Antarctic explorers lends to a very unique Christchurch activity. Be sure to take your lunch and your swimmers with you for a great day out!

Tune into More FM’s Workplace Social Club (10am – 3pm) with Amber Russell OR catch up with our More By Four team to secure your family pass! Text keyword “CRUISE” and your details to 559 to go in the draw. On Sunday 10th December, More FM Canterbury will take you and your family to Quail Island on a Black Cat Cruises Catamaran for the afternoon!

Explore the island, enjoy a barbecue lunch, play some beach games and let the kids loose on a bouncy castle specially brought over to the island thanks to Happyhire.co.nz

Check out our full range of cruises available at blackcat.co.nz

T&C’s – Due to limited space on the boat, family passes are limited to 4 people, must include a minimum of 1 x 18+ adult per party. More FM Summer Sailing tickets cannot be exchanged for cash & must be used on Sunday 10th December


When I talk with people about our oceans health, there is generally a sense of; “Where do we start?!”

You can understand this when you think of the number of concerns our oceans face: over fishing, pollution, habitat destruction, warming and acidification, being the most far-reaching.

It is a daunting situation we find ourselves in, but I feel it is inherently manageable.

This is not to dispel the fact that the ocean needs our help, it does; the number of problems it faces, much like a person suffering multiple illnesses, may cause irreversible effects, but if some were treated, it is very likely a full recovery would be made. One of the things I have come to realise, thinking like a biomimic, is that nature, on the whole, is incredibly resilient.

With that in mind, how can we be resilient like the oceans, adapt and in doing so give back to the marine environment to secure its future?

You’ll be pleased to hear I firmly believe there is a way…

In an earlier blog I looked at species in isolation and described a number of adaptations we’ve learnt from that are now solving many human challenges. But, the real potential of biomimicry isn’t in the isolated cases it is the broader understanding of an eco-system that makes biomimicry thinking so inspiring.

Previously I wrote about blue mussels; a fascinating bivalve that adapt to their harsh coastal environment. But what I didn’t say is what their adaptations do in return…

In the Wadden Sea, an area of 10,000km2 bordering Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, mussels not only survive but also thrive in vast beds or colonies;
These beds are so extensive they create another habitat for other species; in fact the mussel beds alone support over 100 species living on, in or between them;
As each mussel filters 2-3 litres of seawater per hour, it is estimated that the mussel colony alone filters the entire Wadden Sea in just a matter of days!!
But it doesn’t stop there, if we widened our gaze even more, we would discover a network of species interacting to survive in and enhance the Wadden Sea’s productivity.
Through biomimicry, we could mimic the Wadden Sea to impact marine pollution through mass filtration and species decline by creating habitats!
This broader picture of a species in its greater environment begins to give us an understanding of the relationships at play; in biology this is called ecology, in biomimicry we call this ‘systems thinking’. As we build species into our picture we start to paint in even more inspiring one: we refer to this as building a ‘genius of place’.

A Genius of Place is where I feel we can have a major impact on addressing our oceans ill health; the closer we mimic it the less we will take and the more we will give back.

So how can we (bio)mimic nature to this level?
To break it down, (bio)mimicking nature can be structured at 3 identifiable levels: form, process, and system. We’ve talked about two of them already; Sharklet Technologies mimic the form of shark’s skin and by mimicking the blue mussels chemical process we’re replacing toxic glues. As you move from one to the other your understanding of the species increases and the resultant biomimicry deepens, the deeper you go the greater the impact. Here are some new examples to articulate what I mean:

Form: the most foundational level of biomimicry where we mimic a structure or shape. E.g. humpback wales have bumps on the leading edge of their fins called tubercles which give them an ability to quickly change direction while feeding; these have been mimicked by WhalePower in order to improve wind turbine blade efficiency by reducing drag by 32% and increasing lift by 8%!humpback whale shot
Process: where the benefits of form are amplified by copying the green chemistry that produced them. E.g. marine invertebrates like shrimp grow an exoskeleton made from chitin that is biodegradable, strong and can communicate with colour. The Wyss Institute has used the same molecular recipe (with help from spiders silk) to produce Shrilk: a thin, clear, flexible, biodegradable replacement for plastic, as strong as aluminium at half the weight.
System: mimicking the network of species in an ecosystem to address all inputs and outputs in a human system. E.g. coral reefs support an estimated 9 million species. They thrive because of their individual adaptations and the relationships they form with one another in a closed-loop. Vincent Callebaut Architecture is rethinking not just the structures but also the infrastructures of built environments modelled on the complex closed loop systems of coral reefs where at least 50% of the energy comes from the buildings themself.
By breaking the levels of biomimicry down like this it highlights;
Nature inspired design can result in unexpected and impressive solutions to our challenges, but in isolation they fall short of tackling the bigger issues we face.
If we start putting all these pieces of nature inspired innovation together; structures, shapes, chemical process, into a system we could start to generate human environments that not only support the surrounding environments in which we live, such as our oceans, but enhance them as well.
So how could this make the future of our oceans brighter?
Taking what we have talked about so far, imagine if buildings could gather their own energy, clean their own water and cycle their own recourses just like a coral. Combine these coral-like buildings to develop a self-sufficient city that operates like a whole coral reef! Then our relationship with the oceans would be as it should be:

Habitat destruction will reverse to habitat creation, as, like the blue mussel, our cities become habitats.
Pollution will reduce as biodegradable materials like shrilk increase and need for toxic chemicals would slowly disappear by using products like sharklet.
Ocean warming and acidification would slow as renewable energy improves by companies like WhalePower and therefore increased, carbon dioxide dissolving into our oceans (elevating acidity) would decline as we produced less and companies like Calera find way to use carbon dioxide to build our cities.
Over fishing would slow with habitat construction and conservation of species and their habitats would become an investment for every developing industry and profession as the secrets to solving their problems would be conserved in those natural models.
By beginning to blur what we think of as human and natural we stand a much better chance of being here for the long haul. In biomimicry we refer to this ultimate goal as ‘creating conditions conducive to life’; this is what each organism does (without thinking) everyday within the eco-system that they live. If they didn’t, it is likely the system would slowly push them out; our aim should be to create a situation where our oceans attempt to pull us in not push us out!

Humanity is a young species with a lot to learn. Biomimicry’s in exciting awe-inspiring approach to how we could design our future from those lessons and I’m pleased that I’m part of it! The network of biomimics across the globe is growing like a thriving organism and I encourage anyone with a curious mind and interest in the big picture, to join.

It is exciting and comforting to know that even if humans lose sight for a while on where all our abilities should take us, the rest of nature is there to show us how to stay on track.

So the next time you come to stumbling block, pause and think…

“What would nature do here…?”

Read up on our past blogs discussing Biomimicry here

Read more about Hector’s dolphins

Our Biomimicry blogs are written by and in partnership with Biomimic William Lawson

Will currently plays a number of roles; assistant producer for Plimsoll Productions and researcher the BBC NHU (Natural History Unit), Local Naturalist and Advisory Group member for Biomimicry UK and BiomimicrySA (South Africa), and advisory group member for CoalitionWILD.

Wills passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors has spurred him on to gain his Dive Master and Yachtmaster qualifications at Sea and FGASA (Field Guide Association of Southern Africa) Assessor Qualification, on land; working in the past as guide and instructor for Africa’s longest standing Game Ranger training organisation; Ecotraining.

Until 2011 Will ran the safari department as Head Ranger at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve where he began guiding in 2006. Will’s enthusiasm for African wildlife was inspired by natural history documentaries and so it seemed fitting that he should now use his knowledge to make wildlife television productions. He has recently completed six months filming in Antarctica.

Black Cat cruises warmly welcome collaborations and encourage you to get in touch if you feel you have a story to share that can empower, educate and inspire people about our oceans and its inhabitants….


half price deal

Happy Friday folks…and what a beautiful sunny Friday it is!!

We hope it’s just a warm and sunny where you are as it is here in Akaroa.

We have a fantastic Friday deal for you….just once a year we offer a limited number of half tickets to come and experience our award winning Swimming With Dolphins experience in Akaroa. Voted the number 1 bucket list experience in New Zealand it’s a genuine steal.

The tickets are valid from now until the end of November AND from March 2018 – May end 2018…so could also be used during this school holiday or given as the perfect Christmas present!

Grab the deal using the link below..



Akaroa Activity For Kids

Kids cruise free october 2017

With the October school holidays just around the corner we wanted to let you know that from Saturday September 30th – Sunday October 15th kids can cruise for free with us in Akaroa! We will offer a free space to a child aged between 0 – 15 with every full paying adult

Akaroa Wildlife

Our multi-award winning Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise will take you and your family out on the water for two magical hours. We’ll go out in search of Hector’s dolphins, one of the worlds rarest and smallest dolphins and only found in NZ….along with fur seals, penguins and an array of coastal birds. We even offer a dolphin guarentee so if you don’t get to see the Hector’s dolphin you can all come again another day for free!

Akaroa History

Your experienced skipper will also tell you fascinating stories of Akaroa’s French and Maori history as you cruise along in your luxury catamaran….and we can’t promise anything but you may hear the odd dad joke thrown in along the way! Read more about Akaroa here.

Hector’s Dolphins

We donate a portion of all ticket sales back to the education and research of the endemic and endangered Hector’s dolphin.To find out more about the Hector’s dolphins have a look at our web page dedicated to this magnificent marine mammal. Click here

Family First

Did you know that all year round we offer free cruising for children under 5? That’s right. If you have little ones under 5 years old they can come on board for our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise for free, all year on all departures. We also offer a family pass special. To find out more check out our specials page here.


We will be cruising every day in the school holidays at 11am and 1.30pm. To book simply call the Akaroa reservations team on 0800 436 574


The bi-annual Akaroa event and three day celebration is back with a bang!

Here’s a sneak peak that Black Cat Cruises filmed from the last French Fest held in October 2015 whilst we celebrated 30 years of cruising on Akaroa Harbour….and be sure to read on for all the information for the forthcoming Akaroa event.

The official Akaroa French Fest poster as shown below is available to buy from the Akaroa i-site for $10 each.
Akaroa French Fest information below courtesy of Akaroa.com

Event date:
Friday, October 6, 2017 to Sunday, October 8, 2017
Brief Description
To be held on the middle weekend of the school holidays. Escape to picturesque Akaroa and immerse yourself in French culture, entertainment and romance as you celebrate Akaroa’s unique history (French, German & Maori) at the Akaroa Frenchfest. Settle in on Friday evening and relax with sea side dining. Watch the street come alive with entertainment, music and roving entertainment. On Saturday enjoy the living history reenactment on the main beach, the parade and official flag raising and the market stalls and activities all day. Saturday evening we have a ticketed cabaret. On the Sunday there will be events at Onuku this year. Like on FACEBOOK.

Event date:
Friday, October 6, 2017 to Sunday, October 8, 2017
Details and Contact

Join in the festivities of the Frenchfest street party, festival market, family fun day, Saturday evening cabaret and Sunday Family day at Onuku. An exciting three days.

Frenchfest 2017

Friday Night Street Party
Friday 6 October 6-10pm.
Children friendly street party with band Rhythm Method (local covers band) playing in the truck on Beach Road from 6pm-10pm.
That is the area outside La Thai Restaurant.
Lizzie Cook roving entertainment in the cafes which open onto the street.
Fire performer.
Children friendly event with things to do for the kids.

The Landing
Saturday 7 October 8.45am-10.30am.
A theatrical living history drama will enfold on the main beach in Akaroa.
Not to be missed and never seen like this before.

The Landing Details:
Akaroa Community Arts Council is proud to present ‘The Landing’ in partnership with Akaroa Heritage Festival Society at French Fest 2017.
This year’s Landing will be a living history re-enactment – we plan to create an 1840’s trading post on our beach – such as would have been there at the time of the arrival of Comte de Paris – local iwi trading with weathered whalers and salty sailors. How might our beach have looked on 19 August 1840? Who was there to welcome our French and German newcomers?
We are thrilled to welcome three very special performers to our stage; Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Michael Hurst and Nathan Bonner will join our community players to enthral, inform, entertain and guide us through Akaroa’s unique journey with the very first European settlers to the South Island.
Tents, crafts, costumes! We want our audience to come early, interact with the set and our players prior to the landing – kids will love it, play some historic games, tie nautical knots with sailors, join in with a weaving group from Onuku or listen in with an iwi story teller.
Wear 1840’s costume, grow a beard, enter into our costume parade and be in to win our Best Costumed competition.
We want visitors to get a real sense of the everyday life that these people might have lived, as well as what challenges faced the French settlers when they first arrived.
An opening waiata will ring out over the bay as birds fly. Come and join us as French Fest comes back to the Akaroa community.

This event is supported by all involved groups – Onuku Runanga, the Comte de Paris Descendants Group, Akaroa Area School, AHFSI (Akaroa Historical French Society Inc), Akaroa businesses and community.

The Parade
The landing re-enactment will be followed by the parade from the beach to the Recreation Ground.
The Canterbury Brass Band will lead the parade from the beach to the Recreation Ground.
Please note there is a traffic management plan in place during this time.

Official Speeches & Flag Raising
Official speeches and flag raising on the Recreation Ground.

Market Day
Saturday 7 October 11am-5pm.
Le Jour du Marché (Market Day) on the Akaroa Recreation Ground
Enjoy French inspired markets, games, food and
entertainment from 10.30am-to 5pm.

Market Day Entertainment
• The Akaroa Silver Band
• The Drew Peacocks Band
• Lizzie Cook & Band
• The Great Depression Band
• Canterbury Brass Band
• Lucky Lost Band

Plus roving entertainment.

Market stalls from 10.30am-5pm.
Bar available and wineries selling excellent local wine.

Activities on the Green:
• 12-12.45pm. Geology Walk to Childrens Bay with Dr Sam Hampton
• 2pm. Waiter’s Races
• 3pm. Cock Crowing Competition
• French Games all day
• Petanque Competition.

Geology Walk to Childrens Bay with Dr Sam Hampton
12pm-12.45pm. As part of the Akaroa Geopark stand at Frenchfest, Dr Sam Hampton is offering a guided walk / exploration session to Childrens Bay. The low tide is at 11.38am on Saturday 7th October. Join Geology expert Sam talk about the geology of the area; the explosives, intrusives and lavas. This is a free event to promote the Banks Peninsula Walking Festival in November. Engage and learn about the geology right next door. Meet at the Geopark Stand at 11.50am for a 12pm departure. Return at 12.45pm.

Heritage Area
In the main marquee during the day will be a heritage area with lots of activities, stalls and information.
• 12-12.30pm. Akaroa Cooking School cooking demonstration.
• 2.30pm. Ca Bouge Fashion Parade.

Le Cabaret Renault
Saturday 7 October 7-10.30pm.
As part of Akaroa French Fest 2017 we announce Le Cabaret Renault.
Don’t miss this fabulous evening of music, dancing and fun.
Joie de vivre!

Doors open at 6.30pm. Fun starts at 7pm.
Adults ticketed event with various bands and entertainers.
$25 per ticket.
Tickets available from Eventfinda, Akaroa Information Centre and the INFO Tent on site during the day.

Chant et Danse, Linn Lorkin and French Toast, Lizzie Cook & band, Bonita, Corner Sounds band and more! Surprises!
Get ready to dance!

Bar available. No BYO please.

While we cannot stop you bringing your children to this evening event, please note there will be some burlesque!

Whanau Day at Onuku Marae
Sunday 8 October. 11am-3pm.
French Festival 2017 Sunday Whanau Day will be held at Onuku Marae.
There is no parking for private cars sorry at Onuku so you will need to take one of the 2 buses that are leaving from Akaroa Area School starting at 9am. This is free. You can park your car on the Akaroa Area school grounds or on the street near the school. The buses will be going backwards and forwards to the school all day.
The POWHIRI at Onuku is at 11am.
Guides will be waiting to show you the way and answer questions.
The day will begin with an explosive powhiri hosted by Onuku.
(A $10 koha per head for the powhiri, a traditional tikanga).
If you don’t make the powhiri there is plenty more to enjoy. Interactive spaces are created to experience the world of Te Ao Maori hosted by whanau. Other activities will include creation stories, local history, local Maori artwork, historical tours by our tamariki and food preparation at the whata (food preparation area). Hear about how the french learnt to play an old traditional Maori game called Ki-o-Rahi.
An opportunity to experience the world of Te Ao Maori, swing a poi and eat hangi while you embrace the tranquil environment of Onuku.
There will be a hangi for $12 a head served at approx 12.30pm.

Nau mau, Tauti mai koutou ma. Nau te rourou, naku te rourou ka ora ai te iwi.

Other events throughout the town:

Akaroa Orion Powerhouse Gallery
Friday 6 October- Sunday 8 October 2017.
French Festival Gallic Offerings Exhibition
Francophile paintings, bric-à- brac, brocante etc…

Friday Day:
On Friday day we will be judging the Best Dressed Competition. The businesses will compete in this to show us their best blue, red and white colours!

French Flavour Storytimes & Craft
Akaroa Library
Friday 6th October, 11:00-12.00
Stories & Rhyme (in French & English)
Followed by French craft activity
Suitable for ages 3-7
Presented by Rémy Barbier.
Link HERE.

Britomart Reserve
• The Canterbury Brass Band play from 12.15-1pm on the Britomart Reserve.

• Lucky Lost band play on the Britomart Reserve from 1.30-2.15pm.

Red Bus Ride to French Fest:
1. French Fest Shuttle
Departs Christchurch – 9.00am
Returns from Akaroa – 5.30pm
$40 Adult, $30 child, return
Departs from Rolleston Avenue outside Canterbury Museum

2. French Fest Shuttle – Early Bird Special
Departs Christchurch – 6.30am
Returns from Akaroa – 5.00pm
$30 per person, return
Departs from Rolleston Avenue outside Canterbury Museum

Why not plan ahead and book yourself onto an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise or Swimming With Dolphins experience to make the most of your Akaroa weekend!

See you there!


“Testament to a great community” is how Akaroa District Promotions Executive Officer, Hollie Hollander, described Akaroa’s win in the 2017 Cruise Critics’ Awards.

Akaroa was named Best Cruise Destination in Australia and New Zealand. What an accolade for a small village to beat the big players on the cruise itinerary. Runners up were Sydney, Picton, Melbourne and Tauranga.

“Akaroa was thrown in the deep end when it became the ‘default destination’ for cruise ships after the earthquakes ended arrivals into Lyttelton. This award is testament to the whole community, who despite the disruption have rallied together for the greater good and made Akaroa an unforgettable experience for our visitors” said Ms Hollander.

The Cruise Critics website describes Akaroa as a quaint village that “oozes Gallic charm.” But it’s the charm of the locals that has won the cruise passengers over.
“Sailing into Akaroa harbour is an amazing experience in itself, but what our visitors always comment on is the warmth and friendliness of the locals. It starts with the welcome they receive from the Cruise Ambassadors on the wharf, it continues as they’re hosted on a great range of local tours and activities and ends with locals serving them the best of Peninsula products. Our cruise visitors are enamoured by our scenery but it’s the people who make this place so memorable for them.”

Hollander said that despite a number of weather setbacks this cruise season, overall it had been a success. And despite the sometimes congested town on large double ship days the community had worked hard to minimise the impact on the township.

“I acknowledge that we didn’t always get the balance right, but we’ve been working closely with the Council and local businesses to try to minimise congestion and amenity issues. We’ve listened to locals and we’re really making an effort to maximise the economic opportunities cruising brings while minimising the social impacts.”

With news that cruise ships will return to Lyttelton in the not-too-distant future, Hollander said now was the time to start thinking about how the community remained a viable Cruise Destination. “We are not looking at losing our position as a Cruise Destination, rather we’ll be looking at Akaroa as a niche destination. That will mean fewer ships and passengers but it may also mean higher value visitors and greater sustainability.”

Akaroa welcomed approx. 127,000 cruise ship visitors in the 2016/17 season.

Research undertaken by Lincoln University in 2013 shows that the average ‘port visit’ spend per cruise ship visitor is $129. This is made up of spending on tours, transport, shopping and souvenirs, restaurant meals, food and refreshments and is spent through the whole of Canterbury.
Businesses derive between 5-30% of their annual revenue from cruise ship visitors.
The economic impact of the cruise ship visitors to Akaroa is forecast at a value-add (VA)* of $38.5m. An estimated 781 jobs will be supported by the industry in Canterbury.
Cruise ship tourism presents a huge opportunity for NZ and for Canterbury. There is no other singular tourism market in Canterbury having the immediate ability to produce high value returns for Canterbury’s economic recovery with minimal effort of expenditure.


The best of Diamond Harbour

Have you ever been to Diamond Harbour? Better yet, have you ever been to Diamond Harbour and enjoyed the delicious fresh food from the Preserved Eatery? Well today we have an unbeatable deal that is currently live on Treat Me.

For just $13.90 you will get a return ticket on the Diamond Harbour Ferry PLUS a $10 voucher to put towards food at Diamond Harbours renowned Preserved Eatery.

The Diamond Harbour Ferry usually costs $13 just on it’s own so thanks to Metro and the Preserved Eatery partnering together you’re pretty much getting a tasty treat on us.

The single price is set for both adults and children. It’s a perfect day out for the Christchurch kids school holidays!

Please do be advised that tickets are selling like hot cakes and are limited so grab one while you can…

Find Out More

For the Diamond Harbour Ferry departure times click here

To find out more about the Preserved cafe click here


Kids Cruise Free in Akaroa

Don’t forget that during the July school holidays we are offering a Kids Cruise Free promotion on our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise! Under 5’s cruise for free all year round with Black Cat Cruises, however over the July school holiday we are giving away free child spots (5-15 years old) when a child is accompanied by a full paying adult.


Clear your diaries folks!

It’s that time of year again when we gather in the streets of beautiful Lyttelton, wrapped up in our warmest of winter wear, to celebrate, be entertained, eat delicious street food, drink warm mulled wine or cider, listen to awesome live music and wait to then watch the winter night sky light up in splendour with an array of streaming colour!

Yes this Friday the Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights kicks off at 6pm prompt and we can’t wait to be there!

You may have already noticed some light installations popping up around Lyttelton. These will all be shining bright this Friday….

We have the full programme listed below with some highlights being a Kapa Haka performance by the Rapaki Whanau, live music from The Eastern, the annual harbour fireworks display and to top it off Lyttelton’s first ever silent disco!

Bring your dancing shoes and your best moves!

fireworks in lyttelton harbourFireworks kick off at 8pm prompt (new time this year) so we highly recommend getting there early.

Parking can be a real struggle so we also recommend catching the bus over and back if you can. Use Metro’s journey planner to plan your journey.

For complete information on all festivities check out http://www.lyttelton.net.nz/festivals/festival-of-lights or follow their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LytteltonHarbourFestivalOfLights/

Our Diamond Harbour Ferry service will be running as usual throughout the night. This will not stop at any point so we ensure all departures times are met.


As the first day of winter arrives today we look forward to the crisp cool season full of optimism and enthusiasm….

Now although our guests mostly join us for a varied wildlife experience on Akaroa Harbour with the highlight of course to encounter the endangered Hector’s dolphins, every now and again we have a rare and surprise visit from a rather larger marine mammal. In the last few weeks we have had a couple of sightings of Humpback whales….yes big, beautiful Humpback whales, right here on our door step (well the door step to the harbour!)

The good news is that we are now cruising twice a day at 11am and 1.30pm, AND we are now swimming all year round so for the first time in five years we will be swimming right through winter again!

Here’s a little update of what we’ve experienced….


A large humpback whale was spotted by passengers and tourists aboard Black Cat Cruises’ Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise at about 1pm.

“This was the first sighting we have had of a humpback whale this year,” said Black Cat Cruises skipper Chris Jenkins.

Jenkins was skippering the Swimming with Dolphins cruise when the Black Cat skipper running the Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise radioed in the sighting of a ‘rather large marine mammal’ outside the Akaroa headlands. The swimmers jumped back on board and Chris guided the vessel to the location so guests could watch the large humpback whale from a safe distance.

“For the last few years, we haven’t run our dolphin swim experience in the cooler months so we would often miss humpback whale sightings,” he said ‘We are so happy to have experienced this rare sighting and look forward to many more as they start to migrate north from Antarctica towards Tonga for winter.”

Black Cat Cruises Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart was aboard the boat and described the encounter as “simply amazing”.

“We watched in awe as this beautiful whale cruised past. We couldn’t predict his age but we could tell from his distinct markings that he was not a juvenile humpback whale,” she said.

“We also had the most dolphins I’ve ever seen on a swim experience in four years. This coupled with the humpback whale and an albatross sighting on a warm autumn day was just the best we could ask for.”


Check out this great little video stuff.co.nz made



They were first spotted by our crew and passengers aboard the Black Cat 1 mile (roughly) off scenery nook, whilst out on their Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.

To their delight two humpback whales were spotted this time, believed to be mother and her calf but this could not be confirmed. ‘We saw them doing side rolls, deep dives and breaching” said crew member Daniel, ‘We viewed them for roughly 15-20 mins on the Black Pearl towards the end of our swim. so roughly 1:30 pm, at this point there were heading north towards Damons bay”

Later that day on our second Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise of the day the Black Cat and it’s passengers confirmed they once again saw the Humpback whales. They believe it would have been the same two whales however this time they were accompanied by multiple dolphins!

This sighting took place up towards Flea Bay and they were heading north and away from the coast.


Humpback whales are frequent visitors to New Zealand’s coastal waters. They migrate between summer feeding grounds in Antarctica and winter breeding grounds in tropical waters.

The Oceania population of humpback whales has been classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2008.

Humpback whales have a small dorsal fin with a distinctive hump at the front, and knobbly protuberances on the head, tip of the lower jaw and leading edge of extremely long flippers. Their tail flukes are broad and have a unique black-and-white pattern, which allow individuals to be identified. They have a variable colour, but are generally black with white on the underside and on the flippers.

Newborn humpback whales are between four and five metres in length, while adults range between 11.5 to 15 metres, according to the Department of Conservation.

The Akaroa Harbour Swim with Dolphins experience, hosted by Black Cat Cruises, was recently voted the number one wildlife activity in New Zealand by Experience Oz + NZ.

Highlights include sightings of the extremely rare and endangered Hector’s Dolphin, as well as penguins and other sea birds. Cruises depart every day, weather permitting.

The Hector’s Dolphin is grey with distinctive black and white markings and a round dorsal fin. It is native to New Zealand waters.

Practice Safety On The Water

Did you know that DOC recommend a viewing distance of at least 50m when observing whales in the ocean…and that if there is a calf present with its mother this distance increases to 200m

DOC Have some fantastic guidelines for safe practice on the water. We encourage you to please familiarise yourself with them. You can find these here https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-mammals/sharing-our-coasts-with-marine-mammals/