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

Category Archives: Testimonials

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 

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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!

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!



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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60 sec with Capitano Juliano

He’s our most raved about skipper on Tripadvisor, knows the history and wildlife of Akaroa harbour like no other….and is generally an all round amazing guy!

We took 60 seconds to find out a little more about Akaroa’s top skipper to find out what really floats his boat…….


(and if 60 seconds just isn’t enough you can watch Julian’s 114 second video here)


What is your name and what is your role at Black Cat Cruises…

Capitano Juliano – Black Cat skipper

Where is your role based?

Akaroa Harbour

Akaroa Wharf and Harbour

What three words would you use to sum up Akaroa/Lyttleton…

Picturesque, charming, unique

What three words would your friends use to sum you up…

Funny, Optimistic, Positive…

Tell us a secret or something unique about you…

I fly glidersglider

What did your dream you would do when you grew up and why…

Fly aeroplanes because I love flying

Why did you want to work for Black Cat Cruises…

I love boating and nature

What do you love the most about your job…

The scenery and the wildlifeBLCT BCAK 2007 02 18 C1966 7076

What is different about Black Cat to any other place you’ve worked…

Spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife

New Zealand fur seal nature cruise

What do you most value, and most enjoy, about working here…

Good team and a beautiful place

Julian and team

Describe one of your best days here…

Today, having two young orca playing with a group of Hectors DolphinsKiller whales Hectors Dolphins


Of Demons and Dolphins

At the age of 71 Richard Jacobs wasn’t just worried about his age when he took the plunge and joined us on a dolphin swim. This inspiring story wraps both his fears and life-long dream all into one, and demonstrates the reward that awaits when you take on a challenge…..

By Richard Jacobs

Is it possible to experience an adrenaline rush, a huge privilege and achieve an almost life-time longing all at the same time?  I really wasn’t sure.  The opportunity was right there, staring at me, teasing me, challenging me.  I just didn’t know if I had the confidence, the ability or the nerve.

It was about 4pm on a windy afternoon, about as far from home as I could be, when I asked for more information.  Would I be safe?  Did I need special insurance?  How long would it take?  In truth, I think I knew all the answers but perhaps I was looking for an easy way out – “Sorry, sir, we can’t take people of your age”.  I heard the opposite!  “No problem”.  It’s probably the most often heard expression in this far off land and that’s what I was told, “No problem at all.” richard jacobs

Well, there was still a problem for me.  In plain language, I suppose I was scared of letting myself down, of looking in some way inept or even of a genuine health risk.

Dinner outside that evening, overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful bays, really did provide food for thought.  At some point during the evening it all seemed straight forward.  I would probably never have such a unique opportunity.  I would be highly unlikely to be at this particular location again and, most important of all, I was at risk of letting myself down for no good or logical reason.  I’ll do it!

It all sounds a bit dramatic but here are some of the considerations that I had decided would not deter me.  I’m 71 years old with a load of metal in my back from recent spinal surgery.  I have moderate heart failure and I suffer from occasional bouts of angina.  It was 15 years, to the day, since two paramedics saved my life in an ambulance after a heart attack and, oh yes, as well as having a pathological fear of sharks, I don’t like cold water!

The challenge?  It doesn’t sound much as I write it here.  I was going to swim with dolphins where the Southern Ocean meets the South Pacific.  Not just any old dolphins, however, these were Hector’s dolphins; one of the rarest, smallest and most endangered dolphins in the world.  It is estimated that there are only some 7,000 left and they can be found around much of the eastern coast of New Zealand.  The largest concentration is believed to be off Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular, south of Christchurch – and that is just where I was on that November day.

These pods or groups of dolphins are normally made up of eight or ten individuals.  Because of their relatively small size – they grow to only about 1.2 metres long and are about as big as a five year old child – they do not have the lung capacity of the larger dolphins and, therefore, cannot dive to great depths for their food.  Hence their love for the relatively shallow waters off this coast, where the water shelves down to only about 200 feet and, as the song goes, “the fishing is easy”.  Of course if they are fishing for food, they are not going to come and frolic with us swimmers who presume to invade their watery world.  Equally, like us, they may sometimes just not want to socialise and our skipper on the dive boat tells us we may not even see any at all.

Back to the plot.  I had been told to report at 8.30 in the morning but I was waiting on the wharf from nearly an hour before that time.  The night had been good but waking to a howling wind did nothing for my confidence and made me wonder if the trip might be cancelled.  Then at least I would have an excuse.  “Well, I signed up but the weather was too bad.”  “No problem”, came the familiar reply as skipper and crew arrived for the day’s work.

An initial shore briefing was followed by a ludicrous struggle to force my 18 stone bulk into an enormous wetsuit and boots, together with the morale boosting comment that, with the sea temperature at just 12 degrees C, the neoprene suit would keep me warm – ish!

More briefing as we sped up Akaroa harbour, with explanations about the necessary hand signals to use once we were in the water.  One for help and one for, “I’m fine”.

Ten minutes later, Hector’s dolphins were spotted and the powerful catamaran idled in the choppy water as eight of us climbed over the stern and into that very cold sea.  Not being used to swimming wearing a wetsuit brought its own problems.  My legs persistently wanted to be where my head should be!  The net result included several mouthfuls of salt water and a pretty ludicrous sight, I suspect, until I was told to bicycle with my legs.  Having attained more or less the correct posture, I hear a shout of, “Richard, behind you!”  Spinning in the water, I was just in time to see two sleek and beautiful shapes swim past me about three feet away.  I know I screamed with excitement but, thankfully, so did the rest of the party.

The water was rough and facing into the wind meant a face full of spray.  We swam for about five minutes and I came out early as my first efforts to stay head up had been a bit strenuous.  We then motored our way outside the confines of the bay and into the ocean.  Here it was not so choppy but there was a good swell running.  About a mile or so off shore, we suddenly had eight or ten dolphins swimming behind the boat and we all climbed down into the water.  It was this second swim which brought home the enormous privilege of being with these wild animals in their habitat.  jacob and hectorsTo add yet more wonder to the moment, a huge albatross flew over us.

I have never before experienced the euphoria that this swim generated.” 

I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t out of breath; I wasn’t even cold!  More importantly, I wasn’t going to miss out on such a special moment.  I freely admit to being a little proud of myself for having committed to this adventure.  I had talked of wanting to swim with dolphins for so many years and here I was, doing just that.

The pod swam in and around us for about 15 minutes, maybe more.  To be honest, I lost all sense of time.  This was a truly wonderful experience and I know I had a huge smile on my face and I have the pictures to prove it.

So, that adrenaline rush was matched by a huge sense of achievement and a long held ambition was realised.  It is matched by the knowledge that, whilst many other people have swum with dolphins, this was an intensely personal moment for me, when I defeated my demons.  At the time, it moved me to a tear or two but the sea water hid that from those around me.

”To be accepted into the world of this unique animal was one of life’s special moments and a huge privilege.  The effects of those few minutes will last a life time.”

Random Acts of Kindness

Four simple words that could change some-ones day, week or even life….

We at Black Cat HQ wanted to share a blog post covering this topic, as unbeknown to us, a member of our staff in Akaroa had quietly bestowed a random act of kindness onto a complete stranger (that is until the office received the most heart warming thank you email…which we will get to in a moment).

So what is a ‘Random Act of Kindness‘? Well according to that great source Wikipedia it is quite simply

‘A selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.’

Our skipper Julian did exactly just that and here is the email that followed……

Hi there

I just wanted to write to say thank you to the lovely captain and crew member of the Black Cat for making my mothers birthday very special.

My mother and her husband have gone through a lot over the last few year. They lost a daughter, then lost all their possessions in the Christchurch earthquakes, had to give away their beloved dog so they could get accommodation, fight insurance companies and EQC but they have got by and they know they are better off than a lot of other people in Christchurch.

So for my mothers 80th birthday my brothers and I all put in and bought her a voucher for two nights accommodation and meals in Akaroa. At the time I looked at your website to see about getting them on a cruise too but we just couldn’t come up with enough money to do it. My mother and her husband went to Akaroa last week and decided to go for a walk on the pier. It was while they were watching the Black Cat getting ready to go out that the Captain came over and talked to them. The next thing my mother knew she was going on the cruise herself and she absolutely loved it. She has talked non stop about how great it was and how nice the crew was and she still cannot believe that she was invited on the cruise. You really made her day and I wanted to let you know that, as I feel that she has gone through so much in the last few years, that for a complete stranger to do such a lovely act of kindness was amazing. To see my mum so happy was really special for me as my father just passed away recently and my mum means the world to me. So once again thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.

So why offer a selfless act? If you’re getting nothing in return why bother, right? Wrong! Random acts of kindness not only reward the receiver, they reward the person giving. There is so much pleasure to be found in putting a smile upon some-ones face…and as the email above pointed out, you never quite know what some-one has been through or may be going through. So thank you Julian for making not only this lady’s day, but for reminding us of the simplicity and ability we all have to make a person smile!

Now you may wonder why we would want to publicise what is deemed to be a selfless act. Quite frankly we want to share the story to encourage YOU to perform your very own random act of kindness! Even businesses are getting behind the action of doing kind, random deeds. Check out this fun video from Coca Cola, who wanted to spread some free happiness…..Coca-Cola Happiness Machine

And lastly before we leave you…

Did you know New Zealand is the only country in he world to have a dedicated Random Acts of Kindness day? (September, 1st FYI )


There’s a whole website about it which contains some great ideas.


But why wait until then….it’s the weekend, go spread some kindness!

Ripapa Island testimonial

“Thanks for organising our trip to Ripapa Island with our holiday programme.  We wish to give positive feedback on the whole experience.  We were greeted on time and by your friendly staff.  Our group of young people aged 9-12 really enjoyed seeing the tunnels, guns and going to a place only 2 of them had ever been too before.  The information given in the museum was well received, not too long, but long enough!  We were very impressed with the young lady who took charge on the day, who took us through the formal programme and then allowing us the flexibility and freedom for the kids to do their own exploring, while also making boundaries clear.  This free time was definitely a good part of the day.”


A great blog post about Akaroa:

“Two extinct volcanoes. Two harbours. One drop dead gorgeous peninsula just over the hill from Christchurch.

When I finally score the real ‘Bank Error in Your Favour’ card instead of Monopoly’s version, I’m going to buy a ‘bach’ in Akaroa, the faux-French heart of the Banks Peninsula. Once a French colonial outpost from the era when the French and English were competing for dominion in the Antipodes, it has tenaciously held on to its short-lived French-ified past.”

Read the full blog post.

Top 10 Things to do in New Zealand

CD Traveller.com based in the UK has also named swimming with dolphins in Akaroa as one of their top 10 things to do in New Zealand.


    1. Swimming with dolphins in Akaroa


    1. Whale watch tours in Kaikoura


    1. Tucking into a Maori meal and cultural tour


    1. Partying up a storm in Wellington


    1. Heading to Hanmer Springs


    1. Taking a trip to Taupo


    1. Exploring Auckland – aka the ‘City of Sails’


    1. Thrills and spills in Queenstown


    1. Chilling out in Christchurch


  1. Catching the All Blacks in action

Great Feedback on Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise

This is just a little note to thank Black Cat Cruises for a wonderful trip. We took our two little people out on your Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise on Monday (Labour Day).

The weather was perfect and we saw lots of dolphins, one busy young fur seal, some nesting shags and other sea birds. The skipper was precise in his piloting of the boat and the commentary was informative and interesting.

All in all, a most pleasurable outing.

Our kids haven’t stopped talking about their day out. The postcards are shown to everyone who’s interested, with full details of the ‘mouse ear’ shaped dorsal fins on Hector’s dolphins, stories of the way the seal played with the dolphins and the long white ‘poos’ on the rocks under the Shags’ nests. Not bad detail from a 2 1/2 and 4 year old.

Thanks for your efforts to protect these beautiful creatures and to educate people about them in such a positive way.

We highly recommend your company to anyone who’s interested in harbour / wildlife cruises..

Phill and Jacq Long, Christchurch

I just wanted to say thank you and give you some feedback on the cruise.

The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we saw lots of wildlife. The commentary was interesting and there was a perfect amount of it – you don’t want someone talk for 2h non stop 🙂 And I think it probably was the first cruise I have been on where you actually could understand what was said – absolutely full points for that. The staff was super nice and the vessels spacious and tidy. No wonder you win awards. What a beautiful part of the world you have down there.