Kaikoura has a rich history and culture. Maori heritage is reflected in the name, Kaikoura. Tama ki Te Rangi arrived in the area many hundreds of years ago and was tired and hungry. He found an abundance of crayfish and named the area “Te Ahi Kaikoura a Tama ki Te Rangi” – the fire that cooked the crayfish of Tama ki Te Rangi.
Kai – food Koura – crayfish
European history can be traced back to 1770. Captain Cook first discovered the Kaikoura peninsula, believing it to be an island. The first shore whaling station was established in 1843, located near where Fyffe House still stands today. Other whaling stations soon followed, and at one stage the industry employed over one hundred men in the Kaikoura district alone. Whale numbers steadily declined after 1850 and the exportation of them became un-economic, leading whalers to turn to alternative means of existence, such as farming. Whaling continued sporadically until as recently as 1964 when the last of NZ’ s whaling operations ceased.
Several different species of whale can be seen off Kaikoura at different times of the year, but almost always the huge Sperm Whales. Flukes lifting clear at the start of the deep dive, adolescent male Sperm Whales enjoy the rich diet of the Kaikoura waters while building up their strength to move to the mating grounds of the warm north. Regularly diving to depths of one kilometre, Sperm Whales have been known to dive to 3 kilometres, holding their breath for up to two hours – perhaps gulping down a few groper or wrestling with a giant squid.
Kaikoura’s coastal waters are home to an array of other marine mammals and birdlife making it the perfect destination for marine experiences all year round. The Sperm Whales also share this part of the ocean with dusky dolphins, fur seals and albatross amongst others. Migrating species such as the rare Hector’s dolphins, humpback whales and orca visit throughout the year.