As the first day of winter arrives today we look forward to the crisp cool season full of optimism and enthusiasm….
Now although our guests mostly join us for a varied wildlife experience on Akaroa Harbour with the highlight of course to encounter the endangered Hector’s dolphins, every now and again we have a rare and surprise visit from a rather larger marine mammal. In the last few weeks we have had a couple of sightings of Humpback whales….yes big, beautiful Humpback whales, right here on our door step (well the door step to the harbour!)
The good news is that we are now cruising twice a day at 11am and 1.30pm, AND we are now swimming all year round so for the first time in five years we will be swimming right through winter again!
Here’s a little update of what we’ve experienced….
MONDAY MAY 15TH SIGHTING
A large humpback whale was spotted by passengers and tourists aboard Black Cat Cruises’ Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise at about 1pm.
“This was the first sighting we have had of a humpback whale this year,” said Black Cat Cruises skipper Chris Jenkins.
Jenkins was skippering the Swimming with Dolphins cruise when the Black Cat skipper running the Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise radioed in the sighting of a ‘rather large marine mammal’ outside the Akaroa headlands. The swimmers jumped back on board and Chris guided the vessel to the location so guests could watch the large humpback whale from a safe distance.
“For the last few years, we haven’t run our dolphin swim experience in the cooler months so we would often miss humpback whale sightings,” he said ‘We are so happy to have experienced this rare sighting and look forward to many more as they start to migrate north from Antarctica towards Tonga for winter.”
Black Cat Cruises Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart was aboard the boat and described the encounter as “simply amazing”.
“We watched in awe as this beautiful whale cruised past. We couldn’t predict his age but we could tell from his distinct markings that he was not a juvenile humpback whale,” she said.
“We also had the most dolphins I’ve ever seen on a swim experience in four years. This coupled with the humpback whale and an albatross sighting on a warm autumn day was just the best we could ask for.”
Check out this great little video stuff.co.nz made
SATURDAY MAY 27TH SIGHTING
They were first spotted by our crew and passengers aboard the Black Cat 1 mile (roughly) off scenery nook, whilst out on their Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.
To their delight two humpback whales were spotted this time, believed to be mother and her calf but this could not be confirmed. ‘We saw them doing side rolls, deep dives and breaching” said crew member Daniel, ‘We viewed them for roughly 15-20 mins on the Black Pearl towards the end of our swim. so roughly 1:30 pm, at this point there were heading north towards Damons bay”
Later that day on our second Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise of the day the Black Cat and it’s passengers confirmed they once again saw the Humpback whales. They believe it would have been the same two whales however this time they were accompanied by multiple dolphins!
This sighting took place up towards Flea Bay and they were heading north and away from the coast.
Humpback whales are frequent visitors to New Zealand’s coastal waters. They migrate between summer feeding grounds in Antarctica and winter breeding grounds in tropical waters.
The Oceania population of humpback whales has been classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2008.
Humpback whales have a small dorsal fin with a distinctive hump at the front, and knobbly protuberances on the head, tip of the lower jaw and leading edge of extremely long flippers. Their tail flukes are broad and have a unique black-and-white pattern, which allow individuals to be identified. They have a variable colour, but are generally black with white on the underside and on the flippers.
Newborn humpback whales are between four and five metres in length, while adults range between 11.5 to 15 metres, according to the Department of Conservation.
The Akaroa Harbour Swim with Dolphins experience, hosted by Black Cat Cruises, was recently voted the number one wildlife activity in New Zealand by Experience Oz + NZ.
Highlights include sightings of the extremely rare and endangered Hector’s Dolphin, as well as penguins and other sea birds. Cruises depart every day, weather permitting.
The Hector’s Dolphin is grey with distinctive black and white markings and a round dorsal fin. It is native to New Zealand waters.
Practice Safety On The Water
Did you know that DOC recommend a viewing distance of at least 50m when observing whales in the ocean…and that if there is a calf present with its mother this distance increases to 200m
DOC Have some fantastic guidelines for safe practice on the water. We encourage you to please familiarise yourself with them. You can find these here https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-mammals/sharing-our-coasts-with-marine-mammals/