This weekend I finally managed to accomplish one of the most important items on my bucket list… See a whale!
I have seen dolphins and got to swim with them (See… Dusky Dolphin Delight) but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see a whale, their sheer size is something I haven’t been able to comprehend in my head until now. I have read thousands of facts and figures, seen videos, photographs etc. But it is not the same as getting to see them for real!
So early Saturday morning, we packed up the car and headed up the coast to the beautiful Kaikoura. We were booked onto the 10am flight with Wings over Whales, a fantastic company that could not be more helpful before, during and after our flight. We had a safety briefing, along with a very informative presentation on the main whale attraction of the day, the Sperm Whale. One of the reasons Kaikoura is so special, is the presence of a large, very deep canyon just a few miles off shore. Male sperm whales are resident here, feeding on the rich amount of resources provided by cold water from Antarctica mixing with warmer water from the tropics. The deep canyon provides the whales with their favourite food, squid, which can only exist at extreme depths (this includes both the elusive giant and colossal squid, cue my imagination of epic under water battles!)
One of the ‘Wings over Whales’ planes.
The whales are quite predictable with their breathing cycles, meaning they usually surface for about 10 minutes every 45 minutes or so. We set off in our little plane ready and waiting for the end of the last 45 minute cycle… We circled and circled around the area where the whale was last spotted… Nothing. As time went on I worried we would miss our opportunity (the flights are only around 30 minutes). But just as I was giving up hope, there he was!
At last! A magnificent Sperm Whale surfaces after over an hour under water.
It was such a surreal experience, looking back at the pictures I can’t believe the size and grace of this lonely male. The pilot told me after we had landed that it was unusual for them to stay under water for so long, and the whale even had him worried! But our perseverance paid off 🙂 Very, very happy would definitely recommend it and do it again given half the chance!
- Largest toothed whale, and 7th largest species on earth.. Check!