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Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

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Calgary, Canada
posts: 100
reviews: 27
Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

Thought I’d post a topic on here given the wide range of opinions on the Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour (by boat), posted my review a couple of days ago:

Having been whale watching all over the world we found the sites great but the organisation so bad it spoilt the experience -

the tour company barely let us get outside to actually see anything. The tour started badly with a lot of waiting around (1 hour in the ‘convenient’ gift shop) and a ridiculous 'health and safety' lecture for 15 minutes on how to put on a life jacket which could have been covered in 2 minutes on the boat, particularly as we ended up with so much time inside.

We were then told we couldn't go outside until the crew told us to due to 'health and safety' nanny state nonsense, which led to the farcical situation of a stampede each time we had a potential whale spotting, including one elderly gentlemen being squashed up against the door and a lot of people ended up seeing nothing.

We’ve been on much rougher seas around Vancouver, California, Australia etc on tours that cost 1/3 the price and if you suggested everyone should sit down INSIDE on those you’d have been rightly ridiculed, it’s a key part of the experience.

Fell well below expectations for the expensive $140 each price tag. Really poor value and it’s a shame there is no competition.

What did everyone else think?

Nelson, New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
posts: 20,509
reviews: 45
1. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

It does sound dreadful, but I haven't done the tour so can't comment if your trip was the exception or the norm.

Have you approached the company directly with your observations?

New Zealand
posts: 8,366
reviews: 8
2. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

I have done the trip twice although the last time was about 4 years ago so things will have changed.

I agree that the wait around in the gift shop was unnecessary (this should be an option at the end of the trip if they must do it at all).

The "health & safety" lecture unfortunately is a must, NZ has very strict controls regarding health & safety, it has to, a huge amount of our economy depends on tourists, lose a few overboard and you will kill the industry. And even with all these safety factors we still lose the occassional tourist in some seemingly docile activity. There's no accounting for some people stupidity in not following instructions and guidelines and unfortuantely it's the minority that spoil it for the majority.

To you(who has done many similar trips) and me(who spends alot of time on the water) it may seem a waste of time explaining about a life jacket but to thousands of others who have never been on a boat and some have never even seen the ocean, it could well be a life saving 15 minutes. There is no point in doing this on the water, it may well be rough seas, everyone is pre-occupied and excited and looking elsewhere. Before the boat leaves everyones attention is virtually guaranteed.

And again you and me who have our sea-legs know we'll be fine outdoors while the boat's speeding through the water but there are hundreds who have no idea that they need to hang on, brace against waves etc. I know on a calm day it may seem silly but on a rough day and on such a big boat it would be hard to keep a track of everyone. On the first trip I did you were allowed outdoors, on the 2nd we weren't.

Personally I think the price is at the top end too but there will be no chance of a competitor any time soon. The loacl Maori iwi have sole rights to the whale watching.

Calgary, Canada
posts: 100
reviews: 27
3. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

Yes we (and a group of other people) mentioned it to them once we got back into the gift shop, they didn’t seem too fussed. I think they were more worried about people asking for refunds because they were stuck inside for a lot of it and missed the whales.

I’d have to disagree with the need for a health and safety lecture in the building, we had about 10 minutes on the bus with a completely captive audience and 5 minutes on the boat before we left port to run through a quick presentation if we really had to have the lecture. Many other places depend on exactly the same tourism without having this issue and they do have similar H&S standards (I live in Auckland but the ones in the US and UK aren’t that different).

At the end of the day it’s the companies concern but our personal responsibility to look after ourselves.

Yeah I’ve been on much rougher seas, in much worse boats etc and no one had any problems with hanging on, it’s part of the experience we pay for. If someone wants to sit inside when moving that’s fine, no problem, but there’s no reason to make everyone do that, it’s way OTT and really spoilt it as we had the crush to get outside before a whale dived.

Sorry but it’s crazy not to be able to stand outside on a whale watching trip.

For the price, it felt to us very expensive although we appreciate there is no competition so these guys can charge what they like.

New Zealand
posts: 8,366
reviews: 8
4. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

On the bus would be a good idea, we drove to where the boat leaves so didn't have the bus trip...although, I'm thinking, perhaps that's why they don't do it on the bus, not everybody is there?? Maybe that has changed since we visited and everybody has to leave from town.

"At the end of the day it’s the companies concern but our personal responsibility to look after ourselves." - oh yes I totally agree but sadly if something happens the spotlight falls on the company who have to suffer all the red tape involved and can be fined mega amounts for not following H&S procedures, even when it is totally the fault of the idiot who doesn't follow instructions.

And perhaps you've never had or seen problems on other boats in heavier seas but I have, and on our own boat. I know what can happen when you least expect it. We had Scottish visitors on board in the Bay of Islands, our boat is a 11meter(40 foot) power catamaran, similar to the Whale Watch boats but on a much smaller scale. We were inside the islands, an area that is relatively calm and our guests were up on the foredeck(we don't allow anybody up there while under speed), we have double rails around the outside but we hit a rouge wave and one of them slipped and fell underneath the bottom rail and into the sea. Something that was totally unexpected. If we had of been moving at speed we would have run right over the top of her.

Once a whale is located you are allowed to stand outside to watch (albeit a crush to get out there) it's just when they are underway you can't, and the whale has gone by then anyway.

And just so you know, I do know where you're coming from and I'm sympathetic to your views, I just think the company don't have any other option.

South Island
Destination Expert
for South Island
posts: 1,233
5. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

Thanks for the info RJP33. The company that runs these tours should be sent your report so please inform them of your experience. I have not done this tour but it does sound like a overpriced nonsense.

Please keep us informed of the companies response.

Calgary, Canada
posts: 100
reviews: 27
6. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

We had a chat with the company after the tour finished in the gift shop and we did email over our feedback as they suggested, haven't yet had anything back.

Zappers - In terms of the bus, everyone had to turn up for the H&S lecture by the shop before we got on, so I assume they'd always have the full passenger load.

I can see where you're coming from but we just couldn't accept that after paying $140 (which is almost 3x what it costs in the States) that we should miss out on such a part of the experience as standing outside - if people want to sit inside perhaps due to sea sickness no problem, but on any decent whale watching tour I don't think it's reasonable to make people sit inside.

Would have to class it as grossly overpriced (I don't think we'd feel as bad if it was $50 or so), maybe the aerial tours are better?

New Zealand
posts: 8,366
reviews: 8
7. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

Ask Guruswife that :)

And I do think is expensive but(and there's that but again ;) some people would pay double that just to have the experience of seeing a whale.

Hey I even think alot of people would be disappointed seeing the whale- when you do find one on the water it's looks like a large log floating because the boats aren't allowed close and then you have a split second to see the fluke before it disappears for another few hours.

Mind you I'd rather see them that far away than have them sound right beside your boat as has happened to us in the past. It's very spooky watching a huge dark whirlpool of water take hold of your boat.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,748
reviews: 142
8. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

LOL Zapps,

don't get me started...

I realllly wish we had wasted our $ on the boat..at least we'd have seen a whale and not been given an overpriced heli ride to see the sea

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g255104-i125-k1659…

Unfortunately in this day and age the whole sue you if you sneeze the wrong way pervades any acitivity...and I've seen here the people who insist on staying outside even though the skipper has warned they'll get wet. Then they come inside and whinge for ages because they are cold, wet, salty and uncomfortable and expect the crew to fix the problem. This ruins the day for everyone becuase the other passengers have to listen to the complaints and the crew are busy dealing with dumbos.

Maybe my disappointment came because we've seen whales here sitting on the beach or even better in the pub. maybe it was because the operator could have been a bit better prepared to deal with the situation......even now it rates as one of my most disappointing holiday spends....and I tell you its up against some real competition

Nelson, New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
posts: 20,509
reviews: 45
9. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

"...we've seen whales here sitting on the beach or even better in the pub..."

GW, I hope those whales in the pub don't drink and dive!

I have been whale watching in the US (numerous times on both coasts) and in Antarctica. Thankfully we were never subjected to such rigid regulations.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,748
reviews: 142
10. Re: Kaikoura Whale Watching Tour Review/Discussion

LOL Wanaka,

they do have trouble holding their drink ;)

Edited: 6:47 am, June 15, 2010