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


quail island ferry

This sunday, May 14th is Mother’s Day in New Zealand!

We love our mums and to celebrate these wonderful women we are hosting two cruises on Mother’s Day in Lyttelton. Tickets are set at a very special rate, are limited and can only be purchased exclusively on Treat Me. So far the weather for Sunday is looking bright and sunny so here’s what you’ll get…..

  • Treat Mum to a 1.5 hour Lyttelton Harbour Nature Cruise on the Canterbury Cat, including a delicious She Universe hot chocolate!
  • Special Mother’s Day rates: $19 for a child pass (15 and under). $39 for an adult pass. $116 for a family pass (2 adults & 2 children)
  • Experience local marine life including the rare Hector’s dolphin, as well as stunning local scenery as you calmly cruise across Lyttelton harbour. Enjoy fresh open air views from the top deck or cosy yourself inside the main cabin complete with comfy seating and a fully stocked bar serving soft drinks, New Zealand wines and beer.
  • Choose from two departures available on Sunday May 14. The first departs at 10:30am returning at 12pm. The second departure is at 1pm returning at 2.30pm.
  • Departs from B-Jetty in Lyttelton – and remember tickets must be pre-purchased from Treat Me
  • Snap up some vouchers today for a memorable experience Mum will love!


Did you know?

We also offer private charters around Lyttelton Harbour all year round. We have plenty of options to suit all manner of events and budgets. To find out more click here


Black Cat Cruises was started by a family, the Bingham family to be precise, who loved the harbour and it’s inhabitants so much so that they wanted to share their little slice of Banks Peninsula paradise with those who came to visit Akaroa.

A mecca for native wildlife from the Hector’s dolphins to the little blue penguins, the majestic extinct volcanic harbour lends itself not only a visually captivating experience out on the cool harbour water, but an educational one for all ages.

Back then the Bingham family were pioneers of eco-tourism as they first set about organising and running Akaroa’s first ever daily Akaroa harbour nature cruise, and it’s in that same family spirit that we offer free kids cruising for under 5’s on every single Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise, every single day of the year…BUT WAIT…..during the July School holidays all children when cruising with an adult can cruise for FREE.

Yep the ticket for a child is $0 when they travel with a full paying adult ($75)….time to pack the car and head over the Banks Peninsula hills for a Christchurch winter holiday adventure not to be forgotten.

To view more info visit our page on the Kidsfest website https://www.kidsfest.co.nz/event/kids-cruise-free-in-akaroa-with-black-cat-cruises-2/

Kidsfest is organised by the Christchurch City Coundil and they have a lot of awesome activities for children if you are looking for things to do over the Christchurch school holidays! Coolstuff 2017 scooterWe recommend self driving to Akaroa (the kids scooter may take you the whole two week holiday!) or if you want to make a really relaxing day of it why not jump on the Akaroa French Connection shuttle and let them seamlessly transport you and your wee ones over to Akaroa and back in a day.

They will drop you right at the end of the main wharf in Akaroa where you will find us located in the big blue building!

You can find out more information about their transport to Akaroa here on their website https://www.akaroabus.co.nz/

If you want any pic-sparation (i think we just made up a word) check out our latest shots from our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise here

*offer is for 1 free child per full paying adult in Akaroa. Child age is 5 -15. Kids Cruise free for under 5’s all year round


New Zealand has over 86 types of breeding seabirds. This has given us the title of ‘Seabird capital of the world’, and a number of these birds can be found in and around Banks Peninsula. We’re celebrating by launching an exclusive special offer for the month of May.

The Akaroa Department of Promotions recently launched their new brochure-‘A Guide to Marine Birds of Akaroa Harbour’ to co-incide with Seaweek.

Whilst Seaweek gives us all an opportunity to celebrate and educate over a nationwide week long promotion this wonderful new Marine Bird brochure will be a fantastic tool for years to come.

The brochure showcases nineteen descriptions and images of different marine birds found in and around Akaroa Harbour. Each image has a little tick box alongside it so you can tick the marine birds off as you go along.

Whilst we see birdlife on every single Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise some are more rare than others…

The nineteen different species are organised in the following categories.

Often seen (Such as the Norther Royal Albatross)

Sometimes Seen (Such as the Southern Giant Northen Petrel)

Rarely Seen (such as the yellow eyed penguin)

Make sure you pick up a copy before heading out on our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. We’d love to hear back from you as to how many you spot?
It’s also a great little guide for any bird enthusiasts.
This brochure sits alongside another Seaweek brochure that launched 2 years ago, ‘Why is Akaroa Harbour so Special?’

Copies of both brochures can be picked up from our Akaroa stores on the main wharf or at Beach Road….here’s how to find us https://blackcat.co.nz/akaroa-harbour-nature-cruises/how-to-find-us or visit here http://www.akaroa.com/node/641

Marine Bird Offer

Book your Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise with us today and use the code ‘akaroamarinebirds’ to recieve $10 off your ticket! This discount is valid for both adult and child tickets.

This code will be valid throughout the month of May 2017 and cannot be used in conjunction with another offer.


Looking for Easter School Holiday activities…look no further.

We have a limited number of half price Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise tickets available today on Grab One. They will be available only until the last one sells out so don’t delay.

Both adult and child tickets are half price and remember under 5’s travel for free with us at Black Cat Cruises anytime of the year, so if you have little ones there’s never been a better time to come over the hill and visit us in Akaroa.

Make time to explore both Akaroa and Banks Peninsula. There are so many beautiful places to visit, all just a short drive from Christchurch.To find out more about things to do why not sign up to our newsletter and you’ll recieve a free Banks Peninsula guide packed with things to do, places to eat, sleep and play!


Something for the weekend…and your taste buds!

Tomorrow (Saturday), Akaroa will play host to some of New Zealand’s finest chefs, all with ties to Akaroa, who will be cooking and serving dishes inspired by local Banks Peninsula produce at the Akaroa Harvest Festival;

– Darren Wright from Chillingworth Road,

– Paul Howells from Twenty Seven Steps,

– Matt Dickie from Coopers & Co,

– Craig Martin from Annandale Luxury Lodge, and

– Akaroa’s resident Spaniard Fran Sansano Anaya who will be cooking his famous Seafood Paella.

There will be two masterclasses over the course of the day;

– 11am Darren Wright, who will be showcasing his lamb dish that he will be cooking on the day, and

– 1pm Lou Bentley from the Akaroa Cooking School showcasing Akaroa salmon.

The famous cake auction will take place around 1.30pm with all proceeds going to the Akaroa Health Hub. Also, if you have any spare produce (fruit, vegetables, chutneys, jams etc) you would like to donate then please bring it along on the day to place on the community table again with proceeds going to the Health Hub.

This year’s festival is being held in the gorgeous gardens of Stew and Jos Howden at Potters Croft – 57 Rue Grehan.

Entry to the event is free and visitors will be able to purchase the chef’s dishes from 11am onward. Each dish will come with a recipe card so you can then purchase the necessary ingredients from the market in order to recreate it at home.

All of the stallholders from the Akaroa Farmers Market will be there from 10am for your fresh produce, coffee fix, baked treats and gelato along with local wines to enjoy with the food and live music to keep you entertained throughout the day.

There is even a supervised kid’s area with entertainment so parents can fully enjoy their day out. The weather forecast is looking fantastic so head on down for a wonderful day celebrating beautiful Peninsula produce.

For easier access to the venue at Potters Croft, there is a free shuttle service from the recreation ground in Akaroa, where there is ample car parking or it is a gentle 10 minute stroll up rue Grehan from the Rue Lavaud turn off.

Those travelling from Christchurch can catch the Akaroa Shuttle put on by Red Bus at a special cost of $40 return (using the promo code: harvest). This service departs at 8.30am from the Christchurch Museum on Rolleston Ave.

Gates open at 10am and the festival will finish up around 3pm. Don’t forget to bring a chiller bag for all of your goodies. Come along for a great day of fun, entertainment, fabulous food and local wines. See you there!!



A public poll has revealed that Australians consider swimming with Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa Harbour as number one on their New Zealand bucket list of experiences.

More than 18,000 Australians voted in the online poll hosted by tour and attractions aggregator Experience OZ and NZ. Black Cat Cruise’s swimming with Hector’s dolphins in Banks Peninsula’s Akaroa Harbour came out on top of the 100 experiences listed.

The Black Cat team are “over the moon? with the result, Chief Executive Paul Milligan said.

“This special recognition follows on from a successful year at the tourism awards and just reinforces the uniqueness of what we do.

Black Cat won the Business Excellence Award (less than $6 million turnover) at the 2016 New Zealand Tourism Awards.

“Swimming with the Hector’s dolphins is an incredible experience and one that can only be done here in Akaroa, Milligan said.

Popularity of Black Cat’s dolphin swim has been increasing steadily, with over 10,000 people taking part in the experience annually, of which more than 10 per cent were Australians. Demand has sparked the need to extend tour times into the winter seson, allowing locals and visitors to swim with the Hector’s dolphins year round.

Big News – We’re Swimming All Year Round!

“Following last year’s upgrade to our facilities, for the first time since before the earthquakes we feel that we can offer a world-class experience all year round? Milligan said.

The results of the vote didn’t come as a surprise to the Chairman of Akaroa District Promotions (ADP) Andrew Dalglish.

“Where else can you swim with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin in a drowned volcano? he said.

“The experience will only be enhanced, too, as the marine reserve develops and flourishes.

“Black Cat has a large presence in town, and the fact they will now run dolphin swim experiences during the winter months will continue their valuable contribution to the area throughout the year, Dalglish added.

Other popular New Zealand experiences, such as cruising Fiordland’s Sounds and the Lord of the Rings tours, were among the top ten. Experience Oz and NZ worked with local New Zealand tourism bodies and tour operators to create a comprehensive list of 100 must-do adventures, from which the public was asked to vote for their own essential New Zealand experience.

“We are delighted that we received a massive level of participation from Aussies sharing their thoughts on what would be their ideal dream New Zealand experience, and are happy for the team at Black Cat Cruises who offer what’s been called ‘one of the most magical wildlife encounters in the world’, Matt Hobbs, marketing manager of Experience OZ and NZ, said.

“Our goal for the campaign was to emphasise the extensive range of unique experiences New Zealand has to offer – many of which cannot be done in Australia – in order to inspire Aussie travellers to take their next holiday across the ditch rather than to more distant overseas travel destinations.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism has just finished two marketing campaigns in Australia in collaboration with Tourism New Zealand and the Christchurch International Airport.

Akaroa remains a popular destination for Australian visitors, Angela Gordon, General Manager Marketing at Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, said.

“In Australia, you might have to travel a long way to do an activity like Black Cat’s dolphin experience, but once you’re in Christchurch, it’s just so close and accessible.

“Australians are Canterbury’s largest visitor market. It’s great news for the team at Black Cat – to be recognised as offering a unique attraction that people can share with family and friends.


Don’t forget that you can also win your very own private Swimming With Dolphins experience in Akaroa for you and up to 9 friends! Simply follow this link and upload a pic of you and your mates . Entries close March 31st, 2017.
About the poll
Experience Oz and NZ’s poll ran from 23 January 2017 until 20 February 2017 and received more than 18,000 votes in total. Voting was open to all Australians 18 years and over.
A random-draw prize offered to one poll participant includes a seven-day trip to New Zealand for two, with flights, accommodation and a handful of top experiences included in the voting options.


If you’ve never had an experience involving a dolphin, it should, in my humble opinion be right up there on your bucket list!

Dolphins are a unique group of mammals; in fact their ability in the water is so astounding that it gave rise to ‘Grays Paradox’; where-by in 1936, British zoologist Sir James Gray hypothesised that “the high speeds and accelerations dolphins produce with their [relatively] small muscle mass, is insufficient to overcome the drag forces of water”! Basically he thought they defied the laws of physics!

As a direct result, what followed has been nearly 80 years of research into these fascinating animals that has not only advanced our understanding of the species, but of fluid dynamics itself!

The dolphin’s characteristic body, with its rounded front, crescent moon shape fins and fluke and slowly tapering tail, is nearly perfect at displacing water and minimising the effects of ‘form drag’ (caused by the friction of fluid on their skin). Like that of an elongated teardrop this ‘fusiform shape’ has a maximum thickness 34-45% the length of their body; which is so efficient it actually modifies the water as it swims, a by-product of which is something called ‘drafting’.
Drafting is defined as “the transfer of forces between individuals without actual physical contact between them”, and dolphins have figured out how to take advantage of this between mum and calf…

As the mother moves through the water at high speed, the pressure of water around her drops, this results in an attractive force called ‘Bernoulli suction’ that pulls mother and calf together!
It also creates the ‘displacement effect’; as the mother swims it causes the water in front of her to move forwards and out and the water behind her to move in and replace it. So by swimming next to her midsection in the forward-moving water young dolphins can gain a ‘free ride’ and save up to 60% of the energy they would need to keep up with mum!
Dolphin body shape is inspiring a redesign in both the aeronautical and naval industries as wing, hull and fuselage designs are taking into consideration ways to minimise drag, increase lift and save fuel, just like a dolphin. In fact the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK (along with major aviation manufacturers) is investigating flying passenger jets in formation to take advantage of drafting in the same way as a dolphin mother and calf.

But dolphin-inspired research hasn’t stopped there; magnifying the lens even further dolphin skin has even captivated scientists and biomimics alike, for 3 main reasons:

Dolphin skin cell production occurs at a rate 250–290 times that of humans! In fact some species shed their skin every 2 hours, up to 9 times quicker than we can! Early research theorised that the flaking skin broke down the turbulence around their bodies further minimising drag, but it is actually more likely it prevents build up of parasites and algae that would otherwise increase the effects of drag on their bodies by 4-times!
Most people would imagine their skin to be smooth, but researchers have found it’s not so; tiny ridge-like rings around their body (0.5-2mm apart) cover their body from head to tail. Initially it was thought the ridges might help channel the water, but they are so tightly packed with blood vessels and bundles of nerves they actually match the sensitivity of a human fingertip, eyelid or lip. It is more likely the ridges give the dolphin an ability to constantly sense each current, eddy and vortex in their watery world. But also create a surface that is difficult for parasites to attach to; reinforces the anti-fouling effect of shedding their skin.
And, as water rushes over them, their skin acts like elastic: rippling and undulating over the hard rubber-like blubber bellow. This may help cushion and absorb the effects of turbulent water; reducing drag by up to 7%!
As a result of these adaptive features, dolphin skin is inspiring biomimetic solutions to; reduce drag-inducing parasites/ algae on ships and submarines and ways to break up the effects of drag in water and air using microstructures to channelize flow and elastic layers to dampen turbulence on planes, boats and high performance vehicles.

The ultra-sonic clicks made famous by the series Flipper cant be ignored either! Dolphins can recognize a call of specific individuals up to 25 km’s away! By using several frequencies in each short burst of ultrasound, dolphins have found a way to cope with the challenges of passing sound long distances through water, and still get their message reliably heard. As a result a company called EvoLogics has developed a high-performance underwater modem that emulates dolphins’ unique acoustics! These devises are currently used in the tsunami early warning system throughout the Indian Ocean.

Lastly, the main time we see dolphins is when they surface to breath, leaping from the water and seemingly playing as they go. But there is much more to it than having a good time:

Just half a body length under water drag created by waves is 5-times the drag from friction deeper down! So, while maintaining high speeds, a dolphin leaps to the surface: “porpoising”. Models of porpoising show that at high speeds the energy needed to leap a given distance is lower than the energy needed to swim the same underwater; so ironically they leap to save energy and move quicker!
Also while underwater, during deep dives (more than 20m), dolphins can reduce energy costs by 20% by collapsing their lungs! Once collapsed their buoyancy reduces causing them to sink and glide rather than actively swim. When going back up the reverse happens and the dolphin actively swims up until its lungs re-inflate sufficiently to provide positive buoyancy to glide the rest of the way. How these might inspire biomimics in the future is yet to be seen…
And the list goes on…!

In fact, the inventory of adaptive features that dolphins have in order to manage their environment is almost endless; it’s easy to see how Gray and his paradox believed dolphins somehow challenged the very foundations of scientific thinking.

But each adaption, moulded over millions of years, are a sure sign we have a lot to learn from dolphins alone as each inspires new and exciting ways to adapt to the challenges fluids present to us.

Conserving and respecting these extraordinary creatures should be a priority for their success and, in fact for our own!

If you want to look further into Biomimicry you will find some great links here;



If you live in Christchurch and have always wanted to come on our Easter Egg Hunt…we have great news for you!

Our annual Easter Egg Hunt hosted on beautiful Quail Island is back….hoorah!

Join us on Quail Island over the Easter weekend for a wonderful family fun Easter Egg Hunt. The Easter Bunny is getting prepared to leave thousands, yes thousands (!), of delicious chocolate eggs with us. Tickets are limted making it the hottest and tastiest easter activity in town.

How Can I Go?

Firstly you must book your tickets with us. This can be done by calling 0800 436 574. We highly reccomend booking in advance as we sell out on every day, every year!

Who can go?

Our Quail Island Easter Egg Hunt is designed for absolutley any age. Quail Island is a wonderful place for familes and friends of all ages.

How does it work?

Come down to B Jetty in Lyttelton at least 15 minutes before your departure time. Our skipper will be there to welcome you on board the Canterbury Cat as you then cruise across Lyttelton harbour to disembark at the wharf on Quail Island. Our Black Cat Cruises crew (along with the Easter Bunny of course) will have hidden coloured popsicle sticks around the island. Every guest on our Easter Egg Hunt is encouraged to collect a maximum of three popsicle sticks which we then swap for your chocolate eggs on your ferry ride back.

Don’t Forget….

Find the golden egg to win a GIANT CHOCOLATE BUNNY. There will be one golden egg hidden every day over the long weekend.

The Quail Island Ferry operates between October to April each year.

Read our latest guest blog from Backpackerguide.nz for some inspiration


Seaweek is New Zealand’s annual national week about the sea. Hosted by the NZ Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE), Seaweek focuses on learning from the sea. It’s about exciting and inspiring all New Zealanders to renew their connections with the sea! Not just for children or those involved with formal education – it’s a time for all of us to get to know our ocean, its habitats, characteristics and inhabitants better.


25 February to 5 March 2017, daily at 3.40pm

Every day during Seaweek take up the offer of a discounted wildlife cruise on our large, spacious and modern catamaran. On the cruise you can view the natural wonders of Akaroa Harbour such as volcanic outcrops & caves, as well as White Flippered Blue Penguin, shags and the worlds rarest and smallest oceanic dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin.

There’s lots of room on the two decks for unimpeded viewing and plenty of covered seating, for shade and shelter. Inside there’s a drink and snack bar as well as toilets. Our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise is fully narrated by the skipper who has extensive knowledge of the nature, wildlife and history of the harbour.

50% off the normal Akaroa Nature Cruise price i.e down to Adult $37.50 & Child $15.00 – must book directly by phone 0800 4 DOLPHINS or in store.


Saturday 25 February and Saturday 4- Sunday 5 March 2017 from1.30-3pm departing from B Jetty Lyttelton

Enjoy a relaxing and informative 90 minute cruise of Lyttelton Harbour – this Lyttelton special harbour cruise is only available over both weekends of Seaweek.

A fantastic way to explore your back yard with friends or family for a very special one off price.

Cost: Adult: $30; Child: $15 – to reserve a space phone 03 328 9078 or email: lyttelton@blackcat.co.nz


For the full line up of Christchurch and Canterbury events and activities check out the Seaweek website

Hector’s Dolphin Research: Scientific Gizmos Galore

By Tom Brough;

Whilst this strange ‘summer’ weather still limits some of our boat work in the more remote areas of Banks Peninsula, our research teams have been making the most of good weather windows and getting some solid work done.

We’ve been retrieving and redeploying devices called TPODs that are permanently moored around the Peninsula (see picture). At present we have 11 TPOD’s moored around the peninusla, from Birdlings Flat to Lyttelton and everywhere in between. We bought these around 10 years ago for the price of around $3,000 each.

These handy gadgets record the sounds of Hector’s dolphins and so can tell us about the locations on the Peninsula that the dolphins prefer.

Because dolphins make particular sounds called ‘buzzes’ when foraging, TPODs can also tell us how often dolphins are foraging in particular areas. The current deployment of TPODs has been in the water since September and have had to put up with two 10m+ swell events during the last month; causing no small about of anxiety to our researchers!

We have also been continuing out our routine photo-ID surveys of the Banks Peninsula coastline. Finding and photographing dolphins with natural marks in their dorsal fins allows us to keep tabs on the number of dolphin in the Banks Peninsula population. Occasionally, we can identify dolphins by slightly stranger means.

A dolphin we regularly see on the north side of the Peninsula, often following trawlers off Lyttelton Harbour. The dolphin is nicknamed ‘mouthy’ and for some reason seems to breathe through its mouth rather than its blowhole.

We recently published a paper on how this could occur; it being the first time this strange behaviour has been observed in the wild.

Understanding the dolphins’ habitat and the reasons they are found in particular places is one of our current research questions.

To answer this we deploy all kinds of scientific gizmos to tell us more about the areas the dolphins use more frequently.

This device (see picture), nicknamed Roberto, gives us a salinity and temperature profile of the water column as it is lowered to near the sea floor. Roberto also shows how much phytoplankton is in the water and measures dissolved oxygen. Having this kind of information allows us to understand and so better protect the important habitat of these special dolphins.

Fingers are crossed for better weather as we head into February when we will start looking at dolphin prey distribution, sediment sampling, and nutrient loads. Stay tuned!

Tom works for the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust

The New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust was launched in 1992 by researchers Associate Professors Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson, along with Trust Patron Sir Geoffrey Palmer to foster research and effective conservation of whales and dolphins in New Zealand. The Trusts long-term goal is; “To enhance the current knowledge of behavioural ecology, distribution and genetic diversity of New Zealand’s whales and dolphins and help create informed management decisions”.

Follow their work @hectorsdolphin on twitter

or on Facebook @whaledolphintrust

Don’t forget we offer Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises every single day of the year that is protected by a Hector’s dolphin sighting guarantee, or you can come and cruise again with us for free. We donate a portion of every single ticket sale back towards the eductaion and research of Hector’s dolphins.