When we arrived to Kaikoura it wasn’t exactly a bright and sparkly day, it was grey, moody and rain drizzle hanging in the air. They’d just had a dusting of snow over the nearby mountains, adding to the chill in the air. This didn’t dampen our mood though, it actually added to the atmosphere as we walked around the rocks by the water looking at the hundreds and hundreds of seals.
Kaikoura is famous for its New Zealand Fur Seal colony and we saw a lot of them. It was great to walk around the seafront to see them all, some of them are quite well camouflaged against the rocks or lying on top of the washed up seaweed. We were going to take a walk along a path by the seafront, but had to turn back as the path was blocked by two large, sleeping seals. Majority of the seals were sleeping or some were making their way back to the sea, but not without taking a break every other hop. Seals do seem a bit lazy.
There were no DOC sites nearby, but we found a cheaper campsite that was about a 20 min or so drive south of Kaikoura. We didn’t mind the back tracking, as the drive south (and north for that matter) of Kaikoura is fantastic. Another typically scenic route, hugging the coast line, winding in and out, and coolest of all, you drive through two tunnels. Another plus, was that we got to do the drive in the moody, damp, grey evening and the following day the rain had been exchanged for blue skies dotted with clouds. It was wonderful to see it in two different lights.
Kaikoura is also famous for it’s whale watching, you can book lot’s of different tours going out from Kaikoura. You can spot Sperm Whales all year round, but you can sometimes see Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Minke Whales, Pygmy Sperm Whales, Southern Right Whales and Beaked Whales, along with a lot of different dolphins. You can also spot the Wandering Albatross, they have the greatest wing span of any living bird – up to 4.3 metres! Kaikoura is definitely a spot worth stopping over at a bit longer and if you have the budget for it, do one of the whale watching tours.
As we headed north of Kaikoura we stopped off at Ohau Stream and went for a little walk up the stream. It is a smallish stream, lined with bushy green rain forest and ferns. At the start of the trail we read signs that during winter there are seal pups playing in the stream, but as we were out of season for that our hopes of seeing any were rather low. But low and behold, we spotted two super cute little seal pups swimming around and playing with each other in the stream. It was fantastic to see them playing together in the wild. This is the kind of site that you would normally only get to see in a zoo, so we felt very lucky to see it in the wild. Mat and I stayed there for probably an hour watching and filming them whilst they were playing around. And we were lucky to almost be on our own too, only a few other people were around as we were there in the morning.
The seal pups are born in November and December on the rocky coast line nearby the stream. Between April and October they travel up the Ohau Stream for several days on end to explore, develop their swimming skills, play and socialise with other pups. In the middle of winter (NZ winter, which is pretty much now) there can be as many as 200 seal pups playing in the water and resting beside the stream and in the pool by the waterfall. So we felt incredibly fortunate to have got to see these two adorable seal pups in March when we were there.
You can watch a little video on this page of Ohau Stream Seal Nursery.