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

Category Archives: Akaroa New Zealand

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

Competition

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!

 

Black Cat Cruises $1million Upgrade In Akaroa…

In a huge boost for Canterbury tourism Black Cat Cruises has started a $1 million extension of its visitor and retail centre on Akaroa wharf.

The investment, recognising increased tourist numbers, has been welcomed by Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism as a strengthening the “visitor proposition” for the region.Akaroa Wharf Building

The revitalisation project includes the removal of old cold stores, part of the Black Cat Cruises centre, to allow a larger building with more retail, customer and staff facilities.

Whilst the project takes place over the winter their Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises are still operating daily.

The eco-tourism operator’s new building design includes environmentally-friendly and power saving features along with better wheelchair access. The underlying wharf is also owned by Black Cat.
A wood pallet burner will heat water for the showers that visitors use after swimming with the dolphins in Akaroa Harbour. New toilets and change facilities are also part of the project with a September completion deadline.

Paul MilliganChief Executive for Black Cat Cruises

 

Chief executive Paul Milligan says the extension of the visitor centre is the biggest investment for Black Cat Cruises since the purchase of their flagship vessel, known as Black Cat, in 1999.
Black Cat Cruises now carries in the order of 100,000 passengers annually. The company’s visitor numbers during the 2015-16 summer season grew by a double digit percentage compared with the prior summer.
“Akaroa does really well for a small town to handle the number of people that are coming through,” Milligan says. “Without the addition of extra cruise ships into Akaroa Harbour following the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes we probably would not have considered investing so much.
“That being said some of our facilities needed upgrading. For example our shower and change rooms will include underfloor heating and we like to treat our all customers with a world-class product.”

Black Cat Cruises sales and marketing manager Natasha Lombart says the company is seeing renewed interest in Akaroa from international markets, and forward tourist bookings are now stretching out as far as August 2017.

The company has linked with shuttle bus operator Akaroa French Connection to provide better transport options from the Christchurch Bus Interchange.

Black Cat, which is celebrating 30 years in business, draws in millions of passengers each year on scenic and wildlife Akaroa cruises and regular Banks Peninsula ferry services.
The new extended building will allow for better flow of passengers on and off harbour Black Cat journeys, particularly in the peak summer operating period when it serves both onshore and cruise visitors.
“Akaroa is still voted by the passengers as their favourite stop throughout their cruises throughout New Zealand,” Milligan says.

 

Qualmark Enviro-Gold award True to their Eco-tourism pioneering roots Black Cat Cruises has worked with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) on environmental details.

These include the generation of hot water in the most efficient manner and installing a new sewerage system, Milligan says.

 

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Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism (CCT) chief executive Vic Allen says Black Cat Cruises’ $1 million investment is significant and recognises the Akaroa’s importance a cruise ship and tourist destination.
CCT has been working with other organisations including Christchurch City Council to help deliver the new Christchurch city visitor strategy, as well as Christchurch Airport which will add airline capacity over the next 12 months to help boost overall tourism numbers. “We’re expecting strong growth for the foreseeable future,” Allen says.

Destinations like Tekapo, Hanmer and Akaroa are drawing in extra visitors and spending across the province.
“Since the earthquakes, regional areas such as Akaroa have become even more popular with tourists. This substantial expansion project will enhance the appeal and it’s a great thing for the entire region,” Allen says.

The Bachelor NZ – Swimming With Dolphins in Akaroa

We’ve been tight lipped and just bursting for last nights episode of The Bachelor NZ to air!

It was down to the final three ladies and we were stoked to host The Bachelor Jordan and his date Fleur in Akaroa on what was one of the shows ‘fantasy dates’.

We couldn’t think of anything better!

 

Click HERE to watch their Swimming With Dolphins experience with us in Akaroa

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We’ve also got a gallery full of images here which include some stunning scenic and wildlife shots…

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A BIG thank you to TV 3 for choosing us as the host of their Akaroa dolphin swim experience!!!

 

Whilst Banks Peninsula is home to some of the most romantic settings in New Zealand (check out this list compiled by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism for some more inspiration)….the big question is….did Fleur recieve a rose?

Watch the full version of the show here

ASO TheBachelorNZ TV3 WithRing BLACK

#AkaroaNZ A round up of Akaroa’s 1st ever InstaMeet

Last Saturday Black Cat Cruises in partnership with Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism and Kiwi Instagrammer Kyle Mulinder aka @barekiwi hosted Akaroa’s first ever instameet….and what a success it was!  We were overwhlemed with not only the wonderful mix of nationalites from Kiwi to Canadian that attended, but just how far some people had travelled! I mean seriously travelled…on planes, trains, automobiles and even a scooter all the way from Queenstown. All to visit our beauitful Akaroa, meet likeminded indiviudals whilst sailing out on the Black Cat to see and photograph the sunset over the pacific ocean. But before we go anyfurther i’m sure a few of you ( like we all did not too long ago) are asking the questions…..

What Exactly Is An InstaMeet?

”A group of instagrammers all meeting together to take photo’s, learn and network” – Plains Fm

In todays crowdsourced content culture Instagram has become one of the leading mediums driven by a passionate, dedicated and inspiring community. For us that means we not only get to share our beautiful slice of Akaroa Harbour and the surrounding wildlife, but allow our guests to create and curate their own content…..and we love it!

Plains Fm came along to report on the evening and created a fantastic podcast you can listen to here.

So what happens when you put an award winning eco-tourism operator, together with their regional tourism office, one of New Zealands most influential Instagrammers and over 70 inspirational and creative people on a boat….Take a look….

And The Result…

For us the Instameet has created a brand new tribe of inspirational advocates that have created stunning content that it still pouring through….

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To view all of the images use #AkaroaNZ on instagram

The Next Instameet

Visit www.christchurchnz.com/instameet to keep up to date with the future events

$50 Seaweek Special Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise This Weekend….

“Toiora te Moana – Toiora te Tangata – Healthy Seas, Healthy People”.

The theme for this year’s Seaweek celebrations

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To celebrate we have two fantastic events happening with the first kicking off this Sunday….

The Blue Cruise

For $50 you can join us for a special Seaweek ‘Blue Cruise’ this sunday Feb 28th…with Black Cat Cruises donating 100% of the proceeds to New Zealands Whale and Dolphin Trust

The Blue Cruise is an Akaroa Harbour Cruise with a little ocean themed twist….complimentary blue buttercream cupcakes and a surprise gift!

To book simply call us on 0800 436 574 to secure your space.

#AkaroaNZ InstaMeet

Following our Blue Cruise we will then be co-hosting Akaroa’s first ever official InstaMeet in partnership with Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism on Saturday March 5th.

Join us in Akaroa for a beautiful sunset cruise along with epic NZ instagrammer Kyle Mulinder @bare_kiwi for a 90 minute harbour cruise. Refreshments will be served at the wharf pre and post cruise, and with a little luck we’ll be able to showcase not only our stunning volcanic harbour, but the rare and infamous Hector’s dolphins for some awesome photographic opportunities!

Best of all – it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE

Spaces are limited and so an RSVP is essential. You can RSVP to emma.oreilly@christchurchnz.com

In the meantime follow us on Instagram to see our edit of our favourite Akaroa and Banks Peninsula pics! #blackcatcruises and we may just feature yours…

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This Must Be Underwater Love

Black Cat Cruises is the only company in the world that I have taken a day off as holiday to spend….at work!

Well I mean when your company is an eco-toursim operator that offers world class dolphin cruise’s and swimming in the wild with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin’s set in an extinct volcainc crater…wouldn’t you?

I’ve told friends and colleagues this before much to their amusement and understanding…and it seems it’s not just me at Black Cat that does this.

Last week our dolphin swim skipper Julian arrived at work extra early to join our early morning Swimming WIth Dolphins trip as a guest.

He bought along his GoPro to snap some pictures as he knows first hand how many awesome pictures our photographers and guests can get when out on the water with us.

Julian managed to snap a lot of his pictures underwater and they are pretty darn good…so good we thought we’d give you a little sneak peak at them…..we hope you enjoy them and if you do leave Julian a little comment below 🙂

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The Hector’s dolphins are one of the most playful and enquisitive oceanic species of dolphin

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Here’s looking at you…

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Bathing in sunlight just below the surface as a swimmer looks on from the right hand corner.

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Typically Hector’s swim in pods of between 2 – 12 however can come together to group in 100 at any one time

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The have distinct white bellies (similar to that of an orca)….

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and black rounded dorsal fins that remind us of a Mickey Mouse ear. Can you spot the second dolphin in this image?

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Julian making the most of his day before heading to work…on the boat in the background 🙂

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You can see just how close a Hector’s Dolphin can swim up to you in this picture as it cruises past a swimmer who is treading water. As one of New Zealand’s first ever eco-tourism operators and a certified SMART and DOC approved operator we ensure that our staff educate our guests on how to behave when encountering the dolphins in the wild. We do not track, feed, chase and touch them. We allow them to come to us on their terms and in their time. Its part of the magic of being allowed into their world and experiencing something extremeley special and unique.

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Dolphins, just like us humans, need air to breathe, The biggest threat to their species population is getting caught in fishing nets. We donate a portion from every dolphin swim and nature cruise towards the education and research of Hector’s dolphins to help save them from extinction.

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The image below is possibly one of our favourite shots. Taken just below the surface of the ocean you can see by the bend in the Hector’s dolphins tail that it’s about to take a dive…

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FIRST ENDANGERED HECTOR’S DOLPHIN CALF OF THE SEASON SPOTTED IN AKAROA HARBOUR, BANKS PENINSULA

he next generation of the world’s rarest dolphin species has been captured in photos and on video!

See our exclusive images and video content below….

International passengers from the cruise ship Dawn Princess who were on a Black Cat Cruises, Akaroa Harbour cruise or Swimming with Dolphins cruise were delighted to spot the first Hector’s Dolphin calf of the season yesterday (Sunday 29 November).Baby Hectors dolphin calf and mother by Krystal

Black Cat Cruises Sales & Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart says the crew spotted four adults and a baby calf in the upper harbour near Wainui.

Image by Crew member Krystal“Seeing dolphin calves is brilliant, as Hector’s Dolphins are endangered so it is a real thrill for both our crew and passengers to spot the first baby this season.

“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 first calf today is a real milestone.”

Black Cat Cruises skipper Julian Yates said four adult Hector Dolphins were spotted in lovely clean water at Wainui and as they moved around they realised that a baby calf was with them.

“ The calf looked around just four weeks old, you can tell their age by the folds in their skin which help indicate how young the calf is, ” says Yates.Hectors dolphin with folds on skin by Helen

“Most of our passengers on both of our cruises today were international guests from the Cruise Ship so they were really excited to see such a rare species of new born baby. It was a real treat and so delightful. The dolphins were really friendly and kept coming up to the boat.”

Females usually have one calf every two to three years. The calves are 50 to 60 centimetres long at birth and stay close to their mothers who provide them with milk and protection for about a year until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Hector’s Dolphins are among the most endangered dolphins in the world.

 

Akaroa rare wildlife encounter by TimmyThe company has just celebrated 30 years in business and huge growth in passenger numbers over that time. In its first year in 1985 Black Cat carried less than 3,000 passengers but that annual number is now over the 3.5 million mark.

The operator is adding extra services for the summer months at a time when Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) chief executive Tim Hunter predicts tourism numbers into Canterbury could hit record levels.

“Canterbury, particularly in terms of international visitors, will probably have a record number this year,” Hunter says.

“With the increase in the number of visitor arrivals growing at 7-8 per cent a year at the moment, and more international air services into New Zealand, it is certainly likely to be the best outcome we’ve seen for some time,” Hunter says.

This visitor growth bodes well for Black Cat Cruises.

Click below to play the exclusive video footage the team captured on Akaroa Harbour

Play dolphin video

#Akaroa…Top Tips for Instagram

Here’s our quick run down of what it is, why we love it and how to make the most of it…….

So what is Instagram?

Instagram is the leading social media platform for sharing images. When it launched back in 2010 it had 1 million followers in its first month alone, so it’s no surprise that it’s become so very, very popular. Anyone can set up an account. Simply download the @instagram app onto your phone, register with your user name (for example we are @blackcatcruises) and voila…you are ready to go.

bingsamo photograph of hectors dolphins pod in Akaroablackcatcruises hectors dolphin imagedoggovtnz rangers at work within the marine reserveFrancis akaroa snaphylahyla akaroa montagewill herbie in Akaroa

Why use it?

We love using it to showcase our akaroa wildlife, peninsula scenery and behind the scene pics, however it’s also a great platform to view amazing photography and images. Whatever your interest, hobby or passion Instagram most likely has a # for it!

Tips and Tricks?

Recently the team at Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism  (@christchurchnz) held a networking event where they invited expert instagrammer Lauren Bath (@laurenpbath) to share her Instagram tips and tricks. With 443,000 followers Lauren sure knows a thing or two about taking great pics and making instagram work for you….here are her top tips…

1) Content

The quality of your content will directly affect the traffic to your Instagram

page. Attempt to post only the highest quality photo or video that you are

capable of producing and use editing tools to polish them, even if they’re just mobile applications like “Snapseed”. At the very least most images should be cropped square, straightened and colour adjustments made.

2) Consistency

Be very consistent with your Instagram habits. Be consistent with the quality

of your posts. Main points to consider regarding consistency

* How many times you post per day (I recommend 2-4 but separate each post by at least 3 hours)

* How much you engage when you are on the platform, give back!

* Keep the quality and style of your content consistent

3) Personality

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Write interesting captions that share a little of your personality and story.

4) Use Hashtags

Use a relevant group of hashtags and I recommend using between 20-30 per post. Very important : Don’t use these hashtags in your caption. Create a note of hashtags and paste these into a comment box BELOW your caption. Keep on top of the hashtags that are relevant to you and popular, resist using hashtags like #follow4follow. I use a combination of popular travel tags, feature account tags and image specific tags.

5) Engage!

Engagement is right up there with content. The more you engage with other

Instagram users the more you will see engagement come back to you. Be social, social media is a two way street! Network, like, comment,fFollow relevant accounts.

6) Bio

Make sure you have a strong profile photo and some relevant information in your bio along with a contact if you want to be easily contactable.

7) Have fun

Try to enjoy the platform and the experience. If you only use Instagram to gain followers the interactions you have aren’t organic and genuine. Share your story, share a bit of yourself and enjoy.

Black Cat Recommends

One of the most followed accounts on instagram is National Geographic with 34.9 million followers. Find them via thier hashtage @natgeo.(first image by @arni_coraldo via @natgeo)….and a few of their photgraphers @cristinamittermeier (second image below) and @paulnicklen (bottom image)

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Follow us @blackcatcruises and #blackcatcruises to share your Akaroa  and Banks Peninsula adventures with us!

anks Peninsula Tourism Operator celebrates 30 years in Business

It’s been a fantastic start to the new summer season for New Zealand eco-tourism operator Black Cat Cruises as they celebrate 30 years in business.

Labour weekend 1985 Ron Bingham and his wife Durelle officially started Black Cat Cruises with a single boat called the Charmaine over in Akaroa. Skip forward to today and they have grown to become the largest tourism operator on the peninsula operating 7 vessels across both Akaroa and Lyttelton Harbour.

This labour weekend if your birthday falls on Monday October 26th (of any year) you can cruise with them for free! 

‘’It’s been a great start to season’’ Paul Milligan, Chief Executive of Black Cat Cruises said.

‘’Over the last couple of weeks we have celebrated 175 years of Akaroa at the bi-annual French Festival, hosted our 30th birthday party with the family and friends of Black Cat, welcomed the first of this season’s cruise ships and to top it off received a new accreditation from DOC as the Peninsula’s first (and the country’s second) ‘SMART’ operator.’’  Milligan said

The 30th birthday party was hosted locally at Mt Vernon lodge in Akaroa where 100 guests including the Bingham family and Real Journey board members, who purchased a 50% share in the business back in 2007, were entertained by the 17 piece Garden City Big Band.

real journeys akaroa birthday partyThe binghams 30th party in akaroa

Garden City Big band in Akaroa

‘’You usually receive gifts on your birthday however as an eco-tourism operator we thought it only appropriate to give back something on our birthday, so we gifted Professor’s Steve Dawson and Liz Slooten from the University of Otago with a brand new boat engine. ‘’ Milligan said

Professor Steve Dawson and Professor Liz Slooten, both of the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust, were delighted to receive the keys to a brand new Suzuki 90 hp outboard for their research boat. “The new engine is a perfect match for our research boat and will be a tremendous asset to our work. The old engine was 11 years old, so it was high time for an upgrade. It is terrific to see a nature tourism company giving something back – we really appreciate Black Cat’s commitment to the dolphins that support their business” Prof Dawson said.’’

Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson in Akaroa

Over the last 30 years the company has become the leading tourism provider on Banks Peninsula. Re-cognised as New Zealand’s first ever eco-tourism operator they have won numerous accolades and awards including the New Zealand Supreme Tourism Award, Qualmark Enviro-Gold award, the Green Globe award, listed as one of the top 10 marine mammal experiences in the world by Lonely Planet, voted the Number 1 wildlife experience in New Zealand, made it into Trip Advisors Hall of Fame and earned the Moss certification (Maritime Operator Safety System) along with the newly appointed ‘SMART’ operator certificate from DOC.

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‘’Ron and his family had a passion for the peninsula and its marine inhabitants. To this day a portion of all of Black Cat’s ticket sales goes towards the education and conservation of Hector’s dolphins; the world’s rarest and smallest dolphin. We felt it was the right time to throw a party with Black Cat’s friends and family from across our region to celebrate success and look forward to a prosperous and sustainable future.’’ Milligan said

For the month of October you can also purchase an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise ticket for just $30 when a full price ticket is purchased. Use 30birthday as an online code or call and book on 0800 436 574.

Akaroa business a SMART operator

We are over the moon to be awarded the SMART operator certificate from the Department of Conservation!

Akaroa business Black Cat Cruises have become the first business in Banks Peninsula, and the second in the country, to sign up to the SMART Operator programme in an initiative developed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to increase the protection of marine mammals.

 

SMART Operators, an acronym for “Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism”, lead by example by committing to activities that have minimal disturbance on whales, dolphins and seals. Commercial operators are able to achieve this by undertaking staff training around the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations, guarantee responsible advertising and help educate the public about best practice boating around marine mammals.

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DOC Ranger Derek Cox was pleased to have Black Cat Cruises as the first SMART Operator in Banks Peninsula. “Black Cat Cruises approached DOC earlier in the year requesting that we hosted the SMART training course in Akaroa, and they have now become the first SMART Operator – this really demonstrates to us that they are the right operators to be leaders in this community”.

 

“As more people want to have that special encounter with marine mammals, they are putting increasing pressure on them, potentially to the detriment of the very thing they love. DOC is looking for new ways of reducing this pressure and Black Cat Cruises will be able to assist with that”.

 

Black Cat Cruises Chief Executive Paul Milligan thought becoming a SMART Operator was a “no brainer”.  “We have been operating on Akaroa Harbour for 30 years now and as the largest operator on the harbour, it’s important for us to work with DOC to ensure that we minimise any impacts on our environment and the Marine Mammals we interact with, such as the endangered Hector’s Dolphin.”

 

“The SMART Operator initiative reassures DOC that we are operating responsibly and gives our customers the confidence that we take what we do seriously and strive to be a leader in the eco-tourism space.”

Hector's dolphin akaroa harbour

 

DOC intends the SMART Operator programme to be extended around the country in the future.