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  • Rach Stewart


Kaikoura New Zealand .. the little settlement on the east coast of the South Island where the magic of this incredible country I call home is clearly evident. A place where the mountains and sea collide, where the wildlife is abundant (resident sperm whales, dusky dolphins, humpbacks, seals, sea birds, you name it), and where an amazing community keeps this place on its feet and welcomes you with open arms. There are so many reasons why you need to visit Kaikoura and in this blog I'll just give you a few of my amazing experiences on a trip I got to be part of for photography work.

Swim with Dolphins Kaikoura

Whales and dolphins have always been part of my life. Since very early on, I was fascinated with the ocean and anything that resided in it, but my deep fondness was always for whales.

Sperm whale Kaikoura whale watching

I was a staunch campaigner against whaling during my teenage years, writing many letters to the prime minister, joining Sea Shepherd, donating any spare dollars I had to the cause. My nearest and dearest friend also worked on a whale watching boat in Auckland, and I was lucky enough to go out with her on many occasions to spend time with these beautiful creatures of the sea.

NZ Prints and canvas
South Island map

So when I had the opportunity to visit Kaikoura recently with @christchurchnz tourism, I could barely contain my excitement. I had only been to Kaikoura once, many years ago, and the weather had not been kind to us, so the memories were faded and I didn't remember much about the place at all.

Although we were only there for a few days this time, the impact the town had on me was profound. The shear beauty that was evident all around me left me not wanting to leave when the time came to pack up and drive away. There is something about Kaikoura that warms the heart. The towering mountains that meet the sea, the wildlife, the people ... all of this combined creates a very special feeling of home in this little part of the world.

Kaikoura foreshore

If you weren't aware, on 14 November 2016 Kaikoura was struck by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake which brought things to a halt just before the summer season was about to get underway. Roads, train lines, houses, businesses ... the town was cut off to the world and all were seriously affected in some way. But what we saw, was that just three months on from this devastating earthquake, the community is strong, they have banded together and are continuing to provide tourism services, great food and amazing experiences to all those who visit. Yes there are still repairs underway, and things look different, but this shouldn't deter you from visiting such an incredible place.

Kaikoura surf beach


So I guess all I am saying is if you are visiting the South Island, or just want to get away for a weekend, you need to put this spot on your travel itinerary! It ticks so many boxes .. there's mountains, rocky foreshore abundant with seals, dolphins, sea birds, there's beaches, there's permanent surf banks for all those frothers, there's wildlife ... which is the most special part for me ... it is truly incredible seeing animals wild and free in their natural habitat, you cant help but smile.

Dolphin swim Kaikoura

I will leave you with some photos from my experience here, and hope that it might inspire you to visit Kaikoura too. And as always take only photos, leave only footprints.

Rach Stewart Photography NZ Landscape Print Store

Experience No 1: Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura

Sunrise, swimming with dolphins, whale sightings .. this trip left me with a full heart and an experience of a life time I will never forget. We swam with the dusky dolphins on 3 occasions during our time out on the ocean, and boy do these guys like to play. They come up to you and look you right in the eye, as if to say 'c'mon lets go'! So around and around I swam with them, circles and twists and turns. I've never had so much fun in the ocean in my life (which is a big call being a surfer!). A definite must do with a friendly crew and hot chicken soup on the ride back in to shore.

Sunrise Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura
Sunrise from the Dolphin Watching Kaikoura
Dusky Dolphin Kaikoura
Underwater dusky dolphins Kaikoura
Underwater dusky dolphin Kaikoura
Dusky dolphins kaikoura


Rach Stewart Photography NZ Landscape Print Store

Experience No 2: Whale Watch Kaikoura

We spent the afternoon with Whale Watch Kaikoura where we were graced with the presence of two resident sperm whales, a juvenile humpback giving us an amazing show breaching many times, two blue sharks cruising around the ocean, hundreds and hundreds of dusky dolphins, seals, albatros and many other sea birds.

Another experience of a lifetime and one that left me with deep respect for this land and the wildlife that call it home.

A resident sperm whale prepares for a big dive in Kaikoura
A juvenile humpback breaches in Kaikoura
Hump back whale Kaikoura


Just a reminder, This is their home, their turf. If they're not interested in you, don't force anything

Thanks so much for reading this blog. I cant wait to return to Kaikoura in the near future and explore a bit more. For more info:


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