Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand is the main centre for whale watching in New Zealand. Boats take visitors out for a “close encounter” with Sperm whales, which can be seen at Kaikoura, all year round. Between December and March Orca (killer whales) can be seen, and the Humpback whale, one of the larges of the species frequent the waters in June and July.
The same can be said for the oceans off the shores of southern California – Dana Point, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, during the months of December thru April the migration of the Grey whales brings hundreds of them along the coastline. With the coming of warmer waters, May thru November, other species of whales can be seen including the Orca, Humpback, Blue and Southern Right whales, which also frequent the New Zealand coast in different seasons.
As in New Zealand, whale watching is a popular past time in North America, as a matter of fact the annual migration of some 26,000 California Gray Whales, one of the largest mammals on earth, on their way to the warm water lagoons of Baja California, gives residents and visitors alike this great experience, and watching a whale breach, gives them the opportunity to see how huge these mammals really are.
The humpback whale is a species of the Baleen whales, it has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins, a knobby head and is a very acrobatic animal, breaching often and slapping the water. Males produce a complex whale song which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. It is not clear what the purpose of the song is, but is believed to have a role in mating. Humpbacks typically migrate up to 16,000 miles each year; have a diet consisting mainly of krill and small fish; feed only in summer in polar waters and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter.
Orca whales in the southern seas have been identified and cataloged by distinct markings located behind their dorsal fin allowing trained naturalists to identify each killer whale and all the relevant information pertaining to it. Orca whales have two midwives that come alongside the newborn calf, during birth, and male whales never leave the side of their mother.
Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and the worlds biggest predators. In size they are equivalent to four elephants and can live for over sixty years. They dive deep into the ocean to feed, and can stay submerged for over two hours while hunting for giant
Squid and other prey. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where they can be seen all year because of the abundance of available fish. Sperm whales can be seen off the California coast usually in small groups or individually, but on March 9 2011 a pod of fourteen sperm whales was seen resting in the Pacific Ocean waters between Long Beach and Catalina Island.
The Blue whales are the largest animal on the planet and can grow, up to lengths of more than 100 feet and weights up to 300,000 pounds. In the summer about 2,000 Blue whales can be seen in the waters, off the Southern California coast, between Santa Barbara and Dana Point.
Get up close and personal
In Dana Point at Dana Wharf there are daily whale watching trips. Information can be found at www.danawharf.com or go to www.2seewhales.com for Newport Beach and Long Beach information. In Kaikoura information can be found at www.whalewatch.co.nz and www.encounterkaikoura.co.nz
For those who do not have the time, or prefer not to go out on a boat, they can visit the http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/ to purchase tickets to visit spend the day seeing the many exhibits and learning about whales and other marine life.