Akaroa Dolphins Boat Tour, A Review

The highlight of our second day in Akaroa was our wildlife boat tour with Akaroa Dolphins.

Akaroa Dolphins

Akarao Dolphins

A little background.

Akaroa Dolphins is a family owned and operated business that takes you out for a 2 hour wildlife viewing tour in Akaroa Harbor. I’m sure you already figured out, the main draw is a dolphin. The smallest and rarest dolphin in the world, so, no big deal. The Hector’s dolphin is only found in New Zealand and only reaches a length of 1.4 meters (or 4.5 feet). There are two species, the first – which we saw – is endemic to the South Island. The second and rarer of the two is only found off the northwest coast of the North Island.

V.I.P. Treatment.

Little Wine in Akaroa

Akaroa Dolphins Dog

Being in the shoulder season we were booked on their afternoon cruise and were the only ones. We had the entire catamaran and crew to ourselves. I felt like a boss.


From top to bottom the tour was class.

You are welcomed aboard with a drink of your choosing – beer, wine and non-alcoholic options all available.

The boat mascot, a little scotty, also acts as the best dolphin spotter I’ve ever encountered (not that I’ve encountered any others… but he was really good… and just look at that face!).

Once you’re all settled, with drink in hand, you head off into the harbor. The captain gives a little history and ecological lesson as you make your way out. As the boat breaks through the dark turquoise waters the harbor opens up and its time for dolphin spotting.

As we were the only passengers and it was a bit cold, the crew recommended we spend the journey out inside the top cabin. We had a stunning view and were able to keep warm until the action started.

Dolphins spotted.

Hector's Dolphin

Hector's Dolphin

The beautiful scenery melts away the moment a dolphin appears at the bow. Which is where they like to play. Such inquisitive and energetic creatures, the Hector’s dolphin sped along with the catamaran just under the bow. Moments when they sped ahead and jumped out from the water were filled with excitement. I feel a bit ridiculous about how much my adrenaline got pumping simply watching these guys swim about and pop out of the water. We seemed to be so close to them!

Hector's Dolphin
Photo by J. Howell Photography
Hector's Dolphin
Photo by J. Howell Photography

Hector's Dolphin

Eventually we careened around the harbor head and slowed into an inlet where we came upon a fur seal having a bit of a swim. This was the first time I’d seen one out in the water.

Akaroa Harbor

Fur Seal Akaroa Harbor

My turning point.

I’m not sure if it was the wine or constantly looking down at the water, but I started to get a bit seasick. And I never get seasick. I literally cannot think of another time when that happened. The waters were not even that rough. Our ferry’s to both the South Island and to Stewart Island were much rougher, and I was absolutely fine then, but something got me this go round.

I left the bow and ended up spending the rest of the trip sitting in a cosy little corner on the back of the ship, where the captain had mentioned was the most stable place to sit. The Captain’s wife, our guide for the day, was very sweet and brought me a little homeopathic remedy for nausea. A few drops of an essential oil blend to help ease my tummy. Luckily it never went further then nausea, but I stayed put for the remainder of the journey.

Akaroa Dolphins

What I missed.

Sadly, sitting at the back I missed more dolphin sightings, as well as a fur seal colony hanging out on a rocky outcrop… including several pups! At least I got to look at J’s photos. On our way back in we also passed a fishery and more beautiful scenery.

Fur Seal Pup Akaroa
Photo by J. Howell Photography

Overall thoughts.

Akaroa Dolphins was a fantastic tour. The boat was comfortable, the crew went above and beyond – did I mention that they pass out homemade cookies on the way back? – and they absolutely delivered on the wildlife. I would recommend anyone visiting the Christchurch area to carve out some time for Akaroa, specifically for this experience (and some yummy French pastries, as well). It is such a unique wildlife encounter that you can’t experience anywhere else in the world.

If you don’t mind a bit of cold water, there is also the opportunity to swim with the dolphins in the wild.

But if you can’t make it out to the Banks Peninsula, Picton and Kaikoura also offer the chance to see the Hector’s dolphin.



Anyone else had a cool dolphin encounter? Where were you when you did? Let me know in the comments!

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