Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura experience
Swimming with dolphins is the number one on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but did you ever think you could swim with wild dolphins in New Zealand? No me neither… but I was wrong. I came across the amazing dolphin encounter Kaikoura whilst visiting this amazing seaside destination.
Dolphin Encounter is an amazing establishment which began in 1989 by three local business partners who wanted to create a unique opportunity to aid tourism in Kaikoura whilst supporting the picturesque environment in which they have lived in for many years. Dolphin encounter organises exhilarating dolphin swimming and dolphin watching tours off the coast of Kaikoura, while still respecting these magical animals in their natural environment.
Lets look what’s included in this post;
- Where is the dolphin encounter
- Dolphin encounter price
- How to book swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura
- What to expect from the dolphin tour
- What to take swimming with the dolphins
- Things to do In Kaikoura such as the whale and albatross encoutner
- Where to stay In Kaikoura
- Final thoughts
How to get to Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura?
Kaikoura is located on the South Island of New Zealand in the Canterbury District. The name Kaikoura means ‘meal of crayfish’ and the crayfish industry still plays an important role in the region. Being on 2.5 hours from both Christchurch and Picton it’s convenient location means it’s perfect for both north and southbound travellers.
If you don’t have your own transport, InterCity services provide a daily coach transport between Christchurch, Kaikōura and Picton then back to Kaikōura, meaning travelling between destinations is easy. Fares vary depending on your day of travel and date of booking and vary between $30-$40.
The Dolphin Encounter tours operate from the Encounter Kaikoura site which is located at 96 Esplanade in Kaikoura, which is a 5-minute walk from the centre of Kaikoura. There is a large customer car park available for your vehicles to park safely while participating on their tours.
It is located next to the St Peter’s Kaikoura church and there is plenty of parking on the street there.
How much is the Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura experience?
The dolphin encounter prices are;
- Dolphin Encounter Swim = Adult (15+): $180 – Child (8-14): $165
- Dolphin Encounter Watch = Adult (15+): $95 – Child (8-14): $65
How to book Dolphin Encounter experience?
To book Kaikoura dolphin swim, simply log onto the Dolphin Encounter website, check your desired availability and pay. There are three times available, 5:30, 8:30 and 12:30.
What to expect on the day (Dolphin Encounter Photos)?
We choose the swimming with dolphins encounter starting at 08:30am. On arrival, we had to register then watch a 5-minute safety briefing before trying on our equipment. Included in the price you get a full-length wetsuit, boots, gloves, mask and snorkel.
Once everyone had changed we got on a bus to drive 10 minutes to the pier before getting on our allocated boat. Each vessel is limited to 16 people meaning you have plenty of space and don’t feel crowded. After 10 minutes of sailing we soon spotted our first pod of dolphins, we excitedly headed to the back of the boat and waited for the captain’s demand before jumping into the water.
Even in a full-length wetsuit the water still hits you by surprise and initially takes your breath away but once you see the dusky dolphins swim past you in their natural environment you soon forgot about the coldness!
Dusky dolphins are very curious animals so you’ll be encouraged to make a lot of high pitched noises to try to entice them to come to say hello.
You’ll spend around 5-10 minutes in the water swimming alongside the dolphins then swim back to the boat ready to follow the pod to the next destination.
Be prepared to do this 3-4 times, but remember these dolphins are wild animals and aren’t coxed with food so can be unpredictable at times, however, the experience of the captain means it is unlikely you won’t see any dolphins. In the worst case scenario if the dolphins aren’t for playing or if the weather conditions mean the tour is shortened from the usual duration you’ll be refunded a proportion of your fare.
After your swimming experience, you’ll take your wetsuit off on the boat and be welcomed to a warm shower, a hot chocolate and plenty of biscuits, before changing into your dry set of clothes. Amazingly the dolphins carried on entertaining us meaning we got the opportunity to get some great insta shots of them jumping out of the water and swimming alongside the boat.
Altogether the tour last for around 3 hours and once off the boat you’ll head back to the main centre where you can have another shower and grab a bite to eat at the onsite café.
Check out the YouTube video below, credit to the guys for filming;
What to take with you on the Dolphin Encounter experience?
Let’s have look;
- Spare set of warm clothes including hat and gloves
- Underwater go pro
- Flip flops
- Sun cream
- Seasickness tablets
Other amazing things to do Kaikoura
There are plenty of things in Kaikoura to do that don’t involve dolphins!
#1 Whale watching
Take your binoculars and head out into the ocean on a modern catamaran to spot a pod of sperm whales using echolocation. On a typical Whale Watch tour you may also encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross.Peninsula Walk
The Kaikoura Peninsula walk is a must do, especially if you have a love for wildlife. The walk can be done multiple ways from 200m to 11.7km, taking anywhere between 5 minutes and 3 hours depending on what type of challenge you want. On route, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the coastline as well as spotting whales, seals, birds and dolphins. Always remember to observe wildlife from a distance to prevent scaring them.
#2 Ohau Point Seal Colony
Ohau Point Seal Colony is the most accessible seal watching experience in New Zealand and best of all can be enjoyed for free! There’s a car park right near the Seal Colony with toilets and it’s only a short walk over the rocky coastline before you reach these amazing creates.
#3 Sea Kayaking and paddle boarding
If you’re looking for an adventure why not try sea kayaking and get close and personal with fur seals, blue penguins and dusky dolphins whilst taking in Kaikoura’s amazing coastline. Hire your own kayak or book an organised tour with qualified instructors who are there to keep you safe and dry, whilst taking you to the best spots.
#4 Climb Mount Fyffe
Whether you’re visiting Kaikoura in summer or winter, it still makes an amazing hike for all the family. There are a number of different trails all ranging in difficulty and length making it suitable for anyone whatever your skillset. If you’re looking to climb Mt Fyffe Summit be prepared for an intense 8-hour hike but be welcomed by superb views over the Kaikoura plains and even on a clear day the north island!
#5 Take a scenic and wildlife flight
Why not enjoy Kaikoura and variety of wildlife from a bird’s eye view with a scenic flight in a helicopter or small aircraft. Another one for the bucket list! It’ll definitely be an experience to remember.
You should check out;
#6 Kaikoura coastline with Albatross Encounter
Kaikoura is not just famous for its whale and dolphin encounters. There is also the Albatross encounter in Kaikoura.
There is up to 12 species of Albatross that can be found in Kaikoura. You will have the chance to see these.
How to see the Albatross in Kaikoura?
If you want you can do the Kaikoura Albatross tour, which you will be taken out to sea on a boat to see these amazing birds.
Best places to stay in Kaikoura
There are plenty of places to stay in Kaikoura that range from budget backpacker accommodation to luxury hotels. If you’re taking a road trip or camping there’s also a few holiday parks within Kaikoura to try including; Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Parks and Alpine-Pacific Holiday Park.
Budget – Dusky Lodge and Backpackers (Approx £40 per night)
If you’re looking for accommodating staff, great service, and excellent facilities in a prime location at a budget price then Dusky Lodge is perfect for you. There are both twin and double rooms with either private or shared bathrooms, as well as kitchen and congregate area, making it a great place to meet other travellers.
Mid-range – First Light Kaikoura (Approx £60 per night)
First Light Kaikoura offers incredible apartments with mountain, sea or garden views that are well equipped with free WIFI and finished to a high standard. The staff are very knowledgeable regarding the area and will give top tips of the best things to do.
Luxury – A Room With a View (Approx £100 per night)
Guests staying at Room With a View can relax in the large bathtub on the private balcony and enjoy views over the majestic Kaikoura Ranges, as well as a 180-degree view of the ocean, now what’s not to love. The apartments are very spacious and well equipped with everything you may need to have a fabulous holiday in a great location.
The dolphin encounter Kaikoura is one of the best things you will do in New Zealand. Swimming with dolphins in the wild is usually up there on the top of most people’s travel bucket list, which you usually have to swim with dolphins in the Maldives or some other exotic country. However, here in New Zealand you can swim with these amazing dusky dolphins!
Enjoy and do not miss out on this experience!