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

Category Archives: Black Cat News

Finalists in the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards

We are so excited to share that we are finalists in the 2019 New Zealand Tourism Awards – (Department of Conservation Conservation Award).

Finalist’s in the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards

An amazing honour to be alongside the other fantastic finalists in our category – Auckland Whale & Dolphin SafariAuckland Zoo,Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

We are very proud of our incredible team and their commitment to protecting the Banks Peninsula marine environment and its inhabitants, especially the endangered Hector’s dolphin. 

This is a great honour that recognises not only the work put in to campaign for better protection of the Hector’s dolphins this year, but also the education and information we pass onto our customers each and every day.

Stay tuned for the results late October 2019! Yahhhooo.

Full press release CLICK HERE

Vote for Black Cat Cruises for the Peoples Choice Award!

As part of being a finalist, there is also a Peoples Choice Award up for grabs and this is YOUR chance to vote for your favourite NZ tourism experience.

We would love it if you chose us! Please click the link below and vote for Black Cat Cruises as your People’s Choice!

Plus, as a bonus for voting you’ll be in for a chance to WIN an Air New Zealand Mystery Break™ including:

✈️ Return airfares to a New Zealand mystery destination
? Two nights twin share accommodation
? Transfer to & from airport to destination

Voting closes 20 September!



TIAKI PROMISE Have you heard of the Tiaki promise?

Well the Tiaki promise is a shared kaupapa (set of values, principles and plans which people have agreed on as a foundation for their actions) founded by New Zealand’s leading Tourism bodies and experts.

The Tiaki Promise is a commitment that both New Zealanders and visitors alike should follow. Most importantly this is in order to protect the country for our generation, and for the generations that are yet to come. What a beautiful concept we can all help bring to life…..

Tiaki In Action

The Tiaki Promise indicates how we can care for New Zealand, with five clear pillars for guidance as shown in this poster. tiaki promise poster

Such simple changes and small deeds can have a big impact. Therefore this might be as simple as…

  • Driving carefully on the roads
  • Being prepared for bad weather or a disaster
  • Showing respect to your peers and people you meet along the way
  • Protecting nature and your environment
  • Picking up litter

That great old saying of take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints is a great way to describe an example of that!

Count Us In

We at Black Cat Cruises have proudly made the commitment to be a part of the Tiaki Promise. As a Kiwi eco-tourism operator since day one we will continue to search for ways in which we can better our environment and experience whilst respecting our surroundings and the wildlife within it.

Get Involved…

The coolest part is that the Tiaki promise is a call out for all Kiwi’s to become guardians of their home. By following this link https://tiakinewzealand.com/ you can find out a little more and show your support towards the Tiaki Promise and YOU can help by becoming a guardian of New Zealand starting today.

Feeling Inspired?

We’d love to hear what actions you already take and now plan to take to show your support. Leave a comment below and inspire us….



New Zealand’s own dolphin

By any measure Hector’s dolphins are a very special animal. Not only are they the smallest dolphin in the world, they are also the only one native to New Zealand. They’re as kiwi as the kiwi. If that is not enough, just like New Zealanders, they are very friendly, often investigating boats and people in the water.

So beloved are the dolphins, that an industry has sprung up to take people out to see or swim with them. Much of the Hector’s activity is based in the beautiful sheltered harbour of Akaroa. Black Cat Cruises was the first operator in 1985 and with other operators its estimated around 1 million people have seen Hector’s dolphins in the last 33 years. It’s an unrivalled and incredible setting to appreciate these very special dolphins and without exception people who see these dolphins form a connection.

It’s estimated the Akaroa Hector’s dolphin industry generates $24.5M* a year in direct and indirect revenue with $19.5M of that for Canterbury alone. This equates to 476 jobs (419 in Canterbury) The dolphins are the must do attraction in Akaroa and bring vital tourism dollars to the region. Nearly $100M in the last 4 years. Plus when asked how important was a dolphin tour to the decision to visit New Zealand, over 45% stated it was either important or very important; indicating the nature experience is a key factor in choosing to come to New Zealand.

But there’s a problem.

Set Net drownings

Hector’s are also one of the world’s rarest dolphin species. It’s estimated there are somewhere between 8000 to 15000 Hectors left – fewer than 30% of their original population. And their close cousin, the North Island Maui dolphin has just 55 individuals. The situation is so dire that in 2017 the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) named the two species in their threatened and endangered species list. You know it’s bad when the Americans are calling us out…

So what’s happening? The greatest threat to the Hector’s dolphins is getting caught and drowned in set nets. As their name suggests, fishers drop the net to the ocean floor and come back later to pull it up. Unfortunately the net is very difficult for a dolphin to detect and they drown if caught.

It’s not that New Zealand has done nothing. In 1988 the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal sanctuary was put in place which introduced some fishing restrictions especially around set netting in the area. At first glance this sounds like a great move but if you look at the details it provided only a modicum of protection and was far from the ‘sanctuary’ it pretended to be. In 2008 more protection was added by extending the boundaries.

However today there is the crazy situation where nets can still be set in and around Banks Peninsula in areas where the dolphins are known to range. Commercial set netting occurs from 4 miles out to sea and flounder nets can be set in Akaroa Harbour from April to October.

In recent years this led to the very sad (and totally unacceptable) situation in March 2018 where

5 dolphins were killed in one set net off the Canterbury coast. And in Akaroa Harbour where a dolphin drowned in 2015. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Compounding the problem is that these dolphins only breed once every 2-3 years. So any death in the population is very hard to replace. Its thought the dolphin population is slowly reducing by 1% per year.

Solution – no more set nets

Right now the NZ government is formulating a plan for discussion. The ‘Threat Management Plan’ is due for release in 2019 and will take a scientific look at the current rate of kill and what, if anything, should be done about it.

To us it’s very clear that set netting no longer has a place for NZ fishing. We need better protection for Hectors around the South Island from all set netting – in the areas they range. Studies have shown whilst they are an ‘in-shore’ dolphin, they also range out to sea as much as 25 miles; though the range is more dependent on the depth of the water. Hector’s don’t tend to fish in water deeper than 100M.

We’re seeking to ensure the Banks Peninsula Sanctuary is a safe place for dolphins. We want to see an all year ban of set netting in the harbours, plus an extension of the commercial ban out to 100m depth (around 20 miles). In addition an extension of the sanctuary up and down the South Island. Only this will bring true haven status to the waters of Banks Peninsula.

Not only is that our responsibility as Kaitiakitanga or good guardians, but also it makes good economic sense. The dolphin industry supports an entire sector – literally hundreds of jobs (directly and indirectly) in Canterbury alone and millions of dollars. Commercial set netting accounts for just a handful around Banks Peninsula.

The benefits are clear – protection of one of our most special natives, protection of an entire industry and jobs and economic benefit for NZ.

This  is an urgent problem with a simple solution.

Come on New Zealand, we can do better than this.


* GDP – value added spend on day of travel. M.E Consulting ‘Hector’s dolphin eco-tourism economic impact assessment. November 2018.


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.



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.


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 🙂

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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

Winter Whales in Akaroa

As an eco-tourism operator in Akaroa who for the longest time has spent decades taking customers out every single day to view the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin the Hector’s dolphin (also known as New Zealand dolphin as they are only found in our waters) we must say that we too gasp with joy when we have the opportunity to spot a pod of whales with our customers.

Humpback whales akaroa new zealand On occasion we will have pods of Orca pass by and during the winter if we are very lucky we may see a humpback whale or two as they migrate north past New Zealand from their summer feeding grounds off Antartica, in search of warmer tropical shores closer to the equator, for breeding.

This past month we have been lucky enough to witness 10 sightings on our daily Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise trips….and boy have the whales been playful. Splashing their flukes (tails), breaching and rolling (scientists aren’t completely sure why they display breaching behaviour. It is thought it may be to clean pests for the whales skin…or simply just for fun). It is believed that the whales may be spending longer here this winter as the water temperature has been a few degrees warmer. It’s apparently one of the warmest winters New Zealand has had in the last 107 years!

youtube akaroa whale video

Our skipper Julian captured some exclusive footage for us to share with you. He’s been working the seas for 18 years and this July has provided him with the best sightings he has ever had during his whole career. We also managed to capture these great photos by way of our awesome crew members Helen and Krystal….

You’ll see from the video and pictures that they grow very large…up to 13m in fact, with an adult male weighing up to 36,000kg.



Akaroa whales New Zealand

Safety Tip: It’s extremely important as a skipper, whether you’ve been driving a boat for 18 years or 18 months that we all observe safe practices when viewing wildlife. For example when we view whales we remain at least 50m from them, and should they approach the boat breaking this distance barrier we ensure to stop the engine and wait for them to pass by. We ask that you do the same and educate others when at sea in order to keep wildlife viewing safe for both ourselves and these amazing mammals.

For breaking wildlife and akaroa news make sure you follow us on Facebook!

If you love the footage pop over to our website’s photography gallery for more images or to our wildlife page on whales.

WHlae fluke akaroa new zealand


If you’d like to learn a little more about their migration habits and what’s being done to understand their population numbers here’s a great article by National Geographic explaining  The Humpback Highway. https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/the-humpback-highway/


Thanks for reading our story. We hope to see you out on the water with us soon!

Best wishes from all of the team at Black Cat Cruises!

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.

$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

NZAEE Seaweek logo TM

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…