The coastal town of Kaikoura is one of the best places in the world for watching whales and dolphins. Offshore, the seabed drops rapidly to the kilometre-deep Kaikoura Canyon, a geographic feature that brings ocean mammals here in large numbers. Sightings vary, but close encounters with giant sperm whales coast can be enjoyed year-round.
Sperm whale, Kaikoura
Giant sperm whales are the world's largest predator and can reach up to 20 metres in length, equivalent in size to four elephants. Migratory humpback, pilot, orca and southern right whales can also be seen, depending on the season. Other species to look out for include rare Hector's dolphins, only found in coastal New Zealand waters, and pods of common and bottlenose dolphins - sometimes thousands strong. Dolphins often swim alongside whale- watching vessels or leap in the waters nearby. It is also possible to swim with the dolphins on an organised tour.