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


Waitangi Day Commemorations in Okains Bay

If you are thinking of heading over to Akaroa or the peninsula over the weekend then be sure to make time for this. Thanks to akaroa.com for the below article. Head to the website to find out whats going on in and around Akaroa and the bays.

Event date: Monday, February 6, 2017

Brief Description
Nau mai, Haere mai. Join us at the Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum for a family day to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Highlights include a powhiri (traditional welcome), hangi lunch, children’s races and the paddling of our magnificent waka on the Opara River at 1pm.

View the Museum’s amazing collections and enjoy continuous demonstrations all day including bread baking in a traditional clay oven, master weavers, wood chopping and sheep shearing. Crafts, stalls, pony rides, lolly scramble, sausage sizzle, espresso coffee, garden bar, cafeteria and more!

The Waitangi Day commemorations at Okains Bay are the largest and longest standing in the South Island, with 2017 being the 42nd consecutive commemoration.

Details and Contact

Entrance Adults $10, Children $2

Please bring cash. No ATM available.

Gates open at 10am. Powhiri (traditional welcome) commences at 10:30am.

Please phone the Okains Bay Museum for more details. 03 304 8611.

Location Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum

Emai: info@okainsbaymuseum.co.nz
Phone: 03 304 8611

Website: Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum

Akaroa; Swimming With Dolphins With Carmen Huter

International blogger Carmen Huter came to Akaroa as her last stop on her New Zealand adventure. Carmen is a wonderful blogger and photographer and kindly shared some her stunning Akaroa photographs with us…along with her thoughts on what makes Swimming With Dolphins in Akaroa so special. Being from a landlocked country myself, anything to do with open water is highly captivating to my Austrian mind. When my best friend (of over 20 years, may I add!) finally made her way over to Aotearoa, water activities took top priority. Naturally, I kept the best for last. So, on our final morning on the South Island together, Miriam gave me a puzzled look when I instructed her to pack her togs at 6amOnce aboard our Black Cat cruise, the smile on her face seemed glued on permanently. Frankly, so did mine! The beauty about looking for dolphins, especially when they’re the world’s smallest, in the wild is the excitement, the anticipation, and the reward of the unexpected. One morning, you might come across 50, the next it could be just 5. Believe me when I say, that all you need to make your heart and eyes light up is just one of these wonderfully loving beings to swim around you. For a moment, everything around me stood still. Floating in the water, I watched as the inquisitive wee dolphin had a good look around, before getting on with her (or his?) day. A moment of pure joy and serenity. Remember, no aquarium, no tank, no Seaworld can replicate the wild conditions of the sea. The sea that is home to creatures so unique and friendly, you might just never want to leave. I, for one, didn’t.“

Follow Carmen’s Instagram Here 

Follow Black Cat Cruises Instagram here

Find out more about Swimming With Dolphins with us in Akaroa here 

For complete wanderlust and travel inspiration check out Carmen’s website and follow her blog!

Thanks for visiting Akaroa, Carmen and for coming out on Akaroa harbour with us to swim with the endangered Hector’s dolphins.

We also loved your shots from around our French Village..and look forward to seeing where you travel to next. Bon Voyage!

Hector’s Dolphin Research; Best Summer Day So Far……

World leading marine mammal experts Professors Steve Dawson and Liz Slooten are currently in Akaroa carrying out Hector’s Dolphin research. They have given us an exclusive sneak peak into what daily life is like for them on the peninsula….

”After a summer of unstable weather, the day has dawned calm and sunny, and promised to stay that way. We hit the water soon after seven, and head out of the harbour towards Birdlings Flat, where Banks Peninsula meets the Canterbury plains.

Our aim is to cover the south coast, so we barely slow for the dolphins we see in Akaroa harbour. Once at the heads, we’re “on effort” travelling at a slow planing speed in our 6.6m rigid-hulled inflatable, and stopping for any dolphins we see.

It’s flat calm. Virtually no swell, and perfect sighting conditions. The first group, off Squally Bay, is diffuse – spread over a couple of hundred metres. They’re busy – feeding, but still coming over to the boat occasionally. With them is a large bunch of spotted shags. The dolphins and shags are diving steeply, probably for the same prey. There’s a dark mark on our echsounder showing a dense prey aggregation at 15-20m deep. The dolphins prey mostly on small fish – surprisingly small, in fact most fish taken are only a few cm long.

Identifying Hector’s Dolphins

We are here to photograph dolphins that have individually distinctive natural marks – usually nicks from the dorsal fin. We use these like tags, they tell us who is who, and of course who goes where, with whom. More importantly resightings tell us how often females breed (every 2-3 years), and how long the live (25-30 years). Indeed monitoring change in survival rate is the main way that we keep tabs on whether the poplation is doing okay. These dolphins had a very tough time in the 1970s and 80s, when many hundreds were caught in gillnets and trawls. Thanks to inshore restrictions on these fishing methods, they are doing much better now, but still too many are caught for the population to recover. The population is about a third of its original size.

The next few groups also have shags in attendance, and are busy feeding. There have been only a few marked dolphins so far, but we manage to get their pictures. Dolphin photo-ID is a bit like photographing sport. The dolphins move quickly and erratically, and the dorsal fin is above the surface for about a second. If you haven’t had your coffee, you’ll miss the shot.

Since the dolphins are often found very close inshore, we go into each of the small bays. In one of the bays, we find a shag behaving oddly. Mostly, they fly off when you get close. But this one was preoccupied. It had caught a decent-sized banded wrasse, and spent the next several minutes trying to swallow it. Successfully! Noteably, it didn’t fly off, instead it slowly swam to shore. I doubt it could have flown at all.


The next few dolphin groups are harder to work with. They’re in stealth mode, not really very interested in the boat. When close, they seem to like to surface at bad angles – we need our pictures to be side-on. Our strategy here is to stop, and have a break. Often, they’ll get curious and come over. So far we have pictures of several individuals with rather subtle marks, but this way we get the picture of the best ID of the day. It’s a dolphin we’ve known since 2007, when we noted (from its size) that it was then at least 2 years old. So it’s 12 or 13 years old now – about 40 in human years. We don’t know what caused the large cut in its dorsal fin, but this mark has not changed in a decade.

The number of dolphins we see on these alongshore surveys is very variable. Small changes in distribution, as they follow their food around, mean that some days we can see 200 or so, but the next day, just a few. While Hector’s dolphins have small home ranges for a dolphin, they still move around over tens of kilometres. That’s why we measure population change via measuring survival rate.

We eventually get to Birdlings Flat, at the base of the Peninsula. We turn for home, about 19 nautical miles away (35km). It’s still flat calm. It’s been a great day. Now we go back to sort out the data and get prepped to do it all again.”

Prof Steve Dawson & Prof Liz Slooten

ORCASOME! Wild Orca in beautiful Akaroa

First orca pod spotted in Akaroa Harbour for 2017

Our guests and staff were delighted to spot a pod of 10 orca including two young calves in Akaroa Harbour this time last week.

This was the first reported sighting of orca off the coast of the South Island so far this month.

More than 80 local and international passengers aboard the 1.30pm Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise rushed for their cameras after our skipper Julian Yates sighted the pod near the Akaroa Lighthouse.

“The pod of orca we came across included one alpha male, a second male with a damaged dorsal fin, four females, two juveniles and two calves that were approximately one or 2-years-old,” Yates said.

“The younger orca were curiously approaching and hanging around our cruise boat while the males stayed distant and led the pod into Daemons Bay. It was here that we found the second male that was missing part of his dorsal fin. Dorsal fins provide stability to orca when swimming but it didn’t seem to be affecting him.”

Orca whales are very intelligent animals that are well-organised and follow highly complex social structures within their pods which often consist of large groups of family members that can span several generations.

While there is not a typical orca migration season in New Zealand, Black Cat Cruises usually report a number of sightings each year in Akaroa Harbour with the majority occurring in spring.The first orca of the 2016 season were sighted in Akaroa Harbour by Black Cat Cruises in October.

Our staff can determine the sex of orca by analysing the mammal’s physical characteristics. Males typically grow between seven and eight metres long and weigh up to 5.5 tonnes whereas females are smaller reaching approximately six metres in length and up to 3.6 tonnes in weight. Males also have a distinctive dorsal fin up to 1.8 metres tall. The fin of females is shorter (about 0.9 metres) and more curved.

Our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise on board photographer Jono described the encounter as “the best orca sighting we’ve ever had” with the viewing lasting about 20 minutes.

“We imagine the orca went into the bay to hunt stingray. On our return trip we saw a second pod that had been spotted by another boat. We weren’t sure of the size of this pod as they were travelling north very quickly. Our passengers also saw the Endangered Hector’s Dolphin on the tour so they got to see the world’s smallest and largest members of the dolphin family.

Multiple Orca Sightings In Akaroa

Black Cat Cruises’ passengers aboard the following 3.40pm Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise saw two pods of orca, along with a second alpha male. The pod was described as being “even more inquisitive and playful, interacting around the boat”.
Our skipper Julian recognised the second alpha male from the earlier orca sighting due to his distinct dorsal fin markings. This pod was returning to Akaroa Harbour.

Viewing Wildlife Safely

Black Cat Cruises was the first eco-tourism operator in Canterbury to receive a Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism (SMART) certification from the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 2015.

SMART is a voluntary collaboration between commercial boat operators and the DOC for the protection of marine mammals in New Zealand. It aims to promote responsible behaviour around dolphins, whales and seals by boat operators.

To ensure the viewing was safe and unobtrusive, Julian slowed down the catamaran at the first sighting and turned off the engines in Daemons Bay so passengers could view and marvel one of the world’s largest apex predators.

The engines were also turned off when orca approached the back of the boat.

To learn more about responsible actions around marine mammals we urge you to read the following link….


What do we know about Orca?

• Orcas – often referred to as killer whales – are one of well-recognised animals in the world due to their large size and distinct black and white markings.
• Orcas are the largest animal in the dolphin family and one of the only known cetaceans to attack sharks, whales and other large marine animals.
• Having no known predators, orcas are known as an apex or alpha predator, which means it is able to hunt freely without fear of being attacked by another marine animal.
• Orcas are protected in New Zealand waters under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
• DOC is beginning to understand that there are different types of orca throughout the world, and work on defining these types is currently underway. Even within New Zealand it has been proposed that there are three different types, based on observations of different food preferences.
• New Zealand is home to an estimated 150–200 orca which travel long distances throughout the country’s coastal waters.

New Zealand Bucket List

We love adventure and awesome, authentic experiences…and we love nothing more than delivering some of the best New Zealand activities from our homes in Akaroa and Lyttelton. We believe it’s important to have goals and passions and one interpretation of that is to have a bucket list…..a wonderful list of things you simply have to do, try or experience during your lifetime.

So we’d love to know what’s on your bucket list? Do you even have one?

Well if you do you are possibly similar to us in that ours is always growing! If you don’t we have the perfect solution to help you start curating a lifetime of rich adventure ahead….and guess what, it’s all right here in New Zealand!

Whilst we strive to continue to offer the best wildlife and nature cruise in New Zealand along with the best dolphin swimming in NZ….we want to ensure we deliver such a great experience that we continue to be recognised all around the world as the must do New Zealand activities.

Our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise has been voted the number one wildlife activity in New Zealand so when we recently discovered that our Swimming With Dolphins Akaroa experience has been listed within the TOP 100 Bucket list by our friends over at Experience OZ + NZ we were / are over the moon!

They describe this activity as….

 ”those looking for an up-close encounter can join operator Black Cat Cruises on a magical encounter that makes for an entirely eco-friendly experience conducted with respect for the dolphins and in a highly responsible way. This is done through the combined method of restricting passenger numbers to just a handful, while also relying on the dolphins’ current whims rather than approaching them directly.”

To read the full list and see where we place (hint we are in the Top 30)…click here


We have just added the new Bucket List badge (as shown above) to our Instagram page. Tag a friend underneath the picture in a comment with #bucketlist and we will choose one lucky winner at random to come and experience our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise with that friend*. The winner will be announced on our Facebook page on November 17th.

Lastly a big congrats to The Giants House in Akaroa and to all of the other New Zealand tourism operators that have made this list too.

See how many you’d like to do and start creating / adding to that list today!




Jucy hotel christchurch

It was only one week ago that we were meeting Rt. Hon. John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Tourism at The New Zealand Tourism awards.

Fast forward 7 days and we’re back in his company at the official launch of the brand new (and first of it’s kind in NZ) Jucy Snooze hotel based at the Christchurch International Airport.

It’s the perfect place to spend the night when flying in or out of Christchurch, and of course particularly great if you have spent the day in Akaroa cruising or swimming with Hector’s dolphins and need to be back near the airport for your flight the next day / late evening!

The Jucy Hotel doesn’t open to guests until November so we thought you might want to have a little sneak preview. We even have a couple of behind the scenes shots from the night before the launch….step inside……

jucy hotel entrance christchurch

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, who is also the Minister of Tourism did a great job at the opening. It’s possibly the first time he has been to the unveiling of a pillow? Just another quirky Jucy touch….

Jucy Hotel John Key Christchurch


On the contrary to my little head popping out below there is nothing pokey about these pods. The Jucy pods are actually quite spacious, and really darn comfy. There’s room to securely store your luggage below, the blinds roll down to give you some privacy and there charging docks within your pod to satisfy any tech savvy traveller. Even the hammocks in the community area have charging docks.

Jucy hotel pods

Last but by no means least Jucy wouldn’t be ‘Jucy’ without some pretty cool touches and branding. We especially love the new ‘Pockets Of Awesome’artwork jointly comissioned by Jucy and Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, along with the continuation of the indoor outdoor theme with these super deep and comfy pallet sofas and furniture!

jucy hotel decor

We say great job team Jucy! Will you be staying at the Jucy hotel? Let us know what you think below….


If you want to book a pod at the Jucy hotel simply visit www.jucy.co.nz

To rent a jucy car or camper (perfect for your trip to Akaroa!) then visit the Jucy website here

5 Quail Island Facts…oh and HALF PRICE TICKETS….

Don’t miss today’s Treat Me deal offering half price adult and child tickets to Quail Island.

We only offer these once a year and when they have sold out, they’ve sold out. Whilst we usually start our Quail Island trips in October we will be kicking off early with these vouchers in time for the Christchurch and Canterbury school holidays next week! Hurrah!!

Whilst today Quail Island is a wonderful place for people of all ages, offering long coastal view walks, a fantastic family friendly swimming beach, cool old shipwrecks and an information hut the island itself has a very interesting past…..

Here are historic 5 facts from our friends at the Department of Conservation

  1. Captain Mein Smith named the island ‘Quail’ after seeing native quail here in 1842; they were extinct by 1875.
  2. The island was farmed briefly in 1851 by the Ward brothers – until two of the brothers drowned in the harbour – and then it passed through several hands until it was used as a Quarantine Station in 1875 for new immigrants.
  3. In 1907 a small leprosy colony was established on the island and housed several patients until 1925, when the remaining lepers were sent to Fiji.
  4. After the turn of the century, when Antarctic exploration was at its peak, the island was used to quarantine and train dogs and ponies for Scott and Shackleton’s expeditions.
  5. The island was declared a recreation reserve in 1975.

A little fact of our own….In the year 2000 Black Cat started cruising passengers from Lyttelton to Quail Island for fantastic Christchurch day trips! We think its a New Zealand must do if you’ve never been.


For more information on Quail Island click here

For our departure schedule information click here

If you grab and ticket and head over this summer we would love to see your pictures. Remember to tag them #blackcatcruises. Happy cruising 🙂


We’re a little bit excited over here at Black Cat Cruises! We fist pumped a few weeks ago when we found out we were finalists in The New Zealand Tourism Awards…however now you can help us secure one of the best awards of all….

Do you have a spare 20 seconds today? If so we would LOVE your support by clicking on this link to vote for us in The New Zealand Tourism Awards.

Your vote is for the People’s Choice category which would be phenomenal to win as we end our 30th season because it’s you who chooses…and even better still you may win yourself a holiday from our friends at Air New Zealand simply for taking the 20 seconds to vote….winnners all round 🙂

thankyou 1024x538

Black Cat Cruises are finalists in the New Zealand Tourism Awards 2016

It is with immense pleasure that we are able to announce that we have been selected as a finalist in the New Zealand Tourism Awards 2016.

TIA Awards Email Signature Finalist


As we come to the end of a record season for Black Cat, and one that happened to celebrate our 30 years in business we are all feeling so grateful for everything we have managed to achieve whilst delivering our world class Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise, Swimming With Dolphins experience and the Quail Island and Diamond Harbour Ferry.

From epic TVNZ wildlife coverage, Quail Island Tree Planting, Akaroa community littler pick ups to the first Akaroa Instameet, to French Can Can dancers on the wharf, to a Big Band birthday bash, to the finals of The Bachelor (uh-hum let’s breeze over what happened next), to Akaroa’s first Seaweek Blue Cruise, a $1million dollar investment in the renovation and expansion on the wharf and a secret little project we’ve been working on all this time that will soon be released, amongst many other things…..we’ve had a blooming fantastic time doing it all!!!!

We are one of just three finalists entered into one of the Business Excellence Award categories and as much as we’d love to pick up the award itself we’re already over the moon and feeling like winners! Thank you TIA for the recognition and selecting us as a finalist.

We’ve already thanked our wonderful team that have worked together to deliver our best year yet, and now we would like to say a big thank you to YOU!  By visiting us, following us, sharing our stories and generally just being awesome you are the ones that let us do what we love doing.

We wish all the best to all entrants and we look forward to celebrating with our team and industry peers at the awards ceremony at The Langham in Auckland on September 29th!

To see who else is in our category and to find out more click here

What is Biomimicry? Human Nature & Mother Nature. Part 1 Of 4

Ever wondered how nature has inspired the way we as humans design, create and live? Being avid ocean wildlife and conservation supporters we are fascinated on a daily basis by the environment we work in and the marine mammals and wildlife that we work with. Has the behaviour or structure of our seas and / or its inhabitants played a part in modern technology? We asked leading British Biomimic William Lawson to deliver us a series of blogs around the subject so that we can share a sneak peek into this wonderful world of science with you………..

wildlife akaroa 098

For a lot of people, Biomimicry is still a completely new concept. The reason being, it was only formalised in the 90’s by one visionary (who we will come to later). Prior to this it was wrapped up in isolated cases of ‘nature-inspired innovation’, such as Velcro inspired by sticky plant seeds.

It has appeared sporadically in magazines and online over the last decade but hasn’t gained a huge amount of momentum in the public sphere as most of its achievements were confined to academic institutions or hidden in the lab still being tested… But all this is gradually changing!

The way I like to describe my role as a biomimic (a person that uses biomimicry) is as ‘Mother Nature’s middle man’!

That might sound a little contrived, so let me explain: Biomimics look to nature for inspiration or more specifically: for lessons and solutions. The lesson is how other species successfully adapt to each daily challenge they face, and the solution comes in finding a way to mimic these adaptations to solve human challenges. So actually what biomimicry is, is in the name; bios means life and mimicry is to copy or imitate, in this case, life!

As we often refer to ‘human nature’ and ‘Mother Nature’ as 2 separate, unrelatable concepts, some people may think that finding solutions to human challenges from nature is unrealistic. However, using a biomimicry approach, we see that this gap is constructed by a misunderstanding and underestimation, by us, of the species we live alongside (which I will explain later).

As biomimics, we hope to act as the middleman between the two concepts to create an environment when it is impossible to tell where ‘human nature’ begins and ‘Mother Nature’ ends. And so, this is why I see biomimics as ‘Mother Nature’s middle man’!

For example; a biomimic might study exactly how a leaf creates energy using photosynthesis, then use that knowledge to revolutionize solar panels, or how a jewel beetle produces it’s brilliant colour and use that blueprint to eliminate the need for chemicals in paint or how a mangrove tree turns salt water into fresh water using no electricity, so we might do the same.

Over this series of blogs I’d like to show you that biomimicry is something anybody can do, I’d like to inspire you to want to do it, and also show you that it’s a tool and a way of thinking to complement but not replace, other problem solving techniques.

So how do people get into biomimicry in the first place? All the biomimics I’ve met became involved in one of three different ways: 1. Some begin with an interest in the philosophy that biomimicry presents; that as a species, humans can and will do better, that we will aspire to enhance the environments we live in like other species do, and not degrade them. 2. Others are inspired by the biomimicry success stories: the people that have looked to nature for solutions and found them. 3. And then there are those who are simply drawn to nature itself: the opportunity to connect with nature for the first time or reconnect with it and see the natural world in a new light. These are often referred to as the 3 seeds in biomimicy and it was this final ‘reconnection seed’ that initially grabbed me. But how I became a biomimic has, like everything, a bit of story to it… I grew up in the north of the UK and had a very outdoorsy upbringing.


a young lad, like many of us, I had no idea what I wanted to be, but two things were certain, I wanted to be outside and I wanted to do something important.

In university I made friends with a group of Kenyans who introduced me to Africa. It was my experiences out there that made me realize; I wanted to learn everything there was to know about nature!


Over the next 3 years Claire Janisch and myself, who I also hosted with Janine, grew biomimicry thinking in South Africa and with it my learning, understanding and appreciation of biomimicry blossomed, and continues to do so. During this time, my understanding of our relationship with the natural world evolved; it changed from a thirst and desire to learn ABOUT nature to a realization that we can in fact, learn FROM nature: this is the very essence of biomimicry thinking.

William Lawson BiomimicThere have been many other important lessons and realizations I’ve gleaned from biomimicry over the years, but three actually form the foundation to its understanding:

1. The first thing that became very clear was that building things, growing food, cleaning water, making energy, and every other action we are tasked with as humans, are to a greater or lesser extent, the same jobs most other organisms are also faced with everyday.

2. I realized that out of all of these organisms alive today, humans are one of the youngest; in fact I found out that of all the organisms that have inhabited the Earth over the last 3.8 million years, 99.9% of them are now extinct, they simply couldn’t hack it! But, the 30 million or so species we share Earth with today could, and are therefore the ultimate success stories! That’s a lot of ‘crème de la crème’ survivors to learn from!

3. And finally, one of the most humbling fundamental lessons I’ve learnt, is that when other species elegantly solve one of their Earthly challenges, the resultant adaptation does not create other problems in the process; a regular, though unintentional by-product of human invention. In fact, they actually positively contribute and even enhance the environment in which they live. Now that really intrigued me and also forms part of the philosophy of biomimicry.

It’s been 7 years since I met Janine and what continues to drive my enthusiasm for biomimicry is how it has it’s place in everything we do; whether it’s construction, design, waste management, water treatment and even politics! I think that it’s this broad application that biomimicry has, that attracts such a range of people to it. Regardless of belief, background, training or aspirations, it quickly becomes obvious to those I’ve casually spoken to or trained in biomimicry, that there is more to learn from the rest of the natural world, than we ever imagined……..


Part 2 of 4 to follow….’Oceans of Biomimicry’

shark biomimicry

Image credit: http://interfacedesignspace.com/biomimicry-basics/