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

Category Archives: Akaroa New Zealand


If you are coming to Akaroa or sending customers our way please allow at least 90 minutes travel time. And be aware of the reporting time. We have had a few customers turn up late recently and it’s very disappointing for all concerned. We are a bit like the airlines, we cant keep people waiting. Our policy for latecomers is that we’ll give them a free of charge stand by ticket, i.e. if there is space for another cruise they can go on it for free provided it does not displace a normal paying passenger.


A lone Orca called Corkscrew was sighted in Akaroa Harbour on 11 June. Customers on board an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise were able to get a close up look. The Orca can be identified by his dorsal fin markings and is well know by Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Organisation. The big male is thought to be over 15 years old. To hear Orca sounds and for more information click here http://www.orcaresearch.org.


Gary and I had a fab time out on the Canterbury Cat over the weekend. The weather was gorgeous and we saw a lot! It doesn’t matter how many times you see those Hectors, they still bring a smile to the face icon_smile It was Gary’s first time over in Akaroa and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. Samantha at reception was lovely! The other staff onboard were also very helpful. Thank you so very much for having us, we loved it and have no hesitations in sending people your way! RebeccaI swum with ‘Black Cat’ on 17th March 09 and am told I left my gold necklace in the changing rooms/box. On returning from the swim the necklace was produced by the staff on the desk. I was unaware at that time the necklace was missing. I truly appreciate your honesty and care you take of customers/visitors. I am very grateful and sincerely thank you for the return of my gold necklace. Joan Clubbs


The white flippered penguin is the Canterbury cousin of the more abundant Little Blue Penguin. Over the last 20 years it’s estimated that around 70% of the local population has been lost. This is mainly due to predators including cats, rats, stoats and ferrets. Black Cat has been working on trapping these predators around the entrance to Akaroa Harbour for the last 6 months. Setting traps where the penguins nest is tricky business because they nest in some seriously out of the way places! These areas require staff to swim from a boat with the traps and bait as they are not accessible by land. Already we have succeeded in catching some rats and stoats and will continue this project to create a safer habitat for the penguins.

White flippered penguins are the smallest penguins in the world – only 30 cm tall. They are only found in Canterbury on Banks Peninsula, confined to inaccessible headlands, caves and rock jumbles. They breed from July to December, usually underground in burrows or natural holes but will also make use of any man-made cavity or nest under buildings. Nests can be more than 500 metres inland and 200 metres up hillsides.


Around this time of the year Hector’s dolphins give birth. There are quite a number of little calves around at the moment, one of which is jet black. Crew on board the Canterbury Cat in Lyttelton have named the new born Obama! Calves are often quite dark when they are first born but quickly grow and lighten into the distinct three colours of adult Hectors.

Hector’s dolphins mature usually have one calf every two to three years. Hector’s dolphins mate in late spring (New Zealand spring = September/October/November) and calves are born about a year later. The calves are 50-60cm at birth and stay close to their mothers who provide them with milk and protection until they are old enough to fend for themselves, usually at about one year old.


The image of James Bond stepping out of a wet suit with a dry tuxedo underneath becomes a reality for Akaroa dolphin swimming operator Black Cat Cruises from 22 July this year.

The company is introducing a world first dolphin swimming experience – the use of dry suits which are also used by New Zealand Armed Forces, the US coast guard and the NASA space programme for Escape Suit Life preservers.

Black Cat Managing Director Paul Bingham product tested the suits upon their arrival this week.

“I wore my normal clothes under the suit and remained 100 percent dry despite spending nearly half an hour in the water. Although the water temperature was around 10C I was very warm, and additional benefits were that they are very buoyant and after being in the water I could slip out of the suit and walk straight off the boat and jump into the car – just like James Bond”.

“You can lie flat in the water and almost go to sleep. The weightlessness is very relaxing. Under normal circumstances I would not be swimming in July but now dolphin swimming is a genuine all year round experience,” he said.

“This is a world first and I believe the investment we have made will really improve the experience that our customers have with us – it’s warm and enjoyable; of course the dolphins don’t mind if you are in a wet suit or dry suit, they seemed to be as friendly as ever.”

The dry suits will be available free of charge from mid July to September and there will be a small surcharge for the rest of the year. Normal wetsuits remain available at no charge year round.

Bingham said the dry suits have proven extremely successful with Canadian rafting companies operating in cold winter months.

Black Cat Cruises has been operating for 22 years and is a former winner of the Supreme tourism award and is the largest tourism operator on Banks


Black Cat Group has purchased Akaroa dolphin swimming operator Dolphin Experience in a move the company says is a refection of its confidence in the future of Canterbury and Banks Peninsula tourism.

“We started 22 years ago with one boat and now we have the largest tourist fleet in Canterbury with nine vessels,” Black Cat Managing Director Paul Bingham said.

“There are a lot of synergies we considered when purchasing the business including the overall reduction in operating and marketing costs.”

Dolphin Experience product and services will be integrated and merged into Black Cat’s current swimming with dolphins operation from October 19.

“Merging the two operations is also good news for Hector’s dolphins because overall there will be less swim boats on the harbour due to operational efficiencies,” Bingham said.

Dolphin Experience operated up to eight swimming trips per day in Akaroa Harbour. The purchase will see Black Cat staff numbers increase to about 40 for the combined Lyttelton and Akaroa operations.

Black Cat Group will operate two retail and ticketing centres in Akaroa – from the Main Wharf and Beach Road. The company is a former winner of the Supreme tourism award and is the largest tourism operator on Banks Peninsula.