We recently spent an awesome day on the water with Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari on the Waitemata harbour, in high hopes the expert team aboard would find some wildlife for our viewing pleasure.
Boarding the boat with 5 in our group, including a ten year old in a wheel chair who was hoping to catch a glimpse of a shark, was a breeze.. The staff were super helpful with the wheelchair (and the rest of us) and allowed us to board first to find a good spot.
After the other passengers (approximately 80) were on board, a brief safety announcement was made to ensure we all knew what to do in the unlikely event of anything going wrong, and we were off.
Heading out of the viaduct, and under the footbridge as pedestrians wait is a great start to the trip, providing a different view of the city and getting up close for a good view at the super yachts and luxury vessels that are currently in Auckland before picking up speed to head towards greater ocean where the chances of spotting some sea-life will increase.
The great thing about this trip is it is a very real safari. The staff on-board are ‘hunting’ the mammals in their natural environment – there are no feeding grounds they can keep coming back to or special ways they lure them in.
While the staff are doing their best to find some whales or dolphins, there is no feeling of waiting from the other passengers as the scenery is amazing and the crew are constantly coming around and chatting and giving tips on how best to spot any wildlife that may be in the area. Everyone is looking out now, and are encouraged to be part of the search which gives the trip a little more of an expedition feeling. For those that just want to kick back and relax, or enjoy a refreshment while they search, a small bar is surprisingly well stocked with snacks, cold drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), hot drinks and ice creams.
Ninety minutes in, and still with no sign of whales or dolphins, everything in the water appears to be moving as my mind plays tricks after the constant staring out into the blue. The children are still excited and a couple of potential passenger sightings have got the heart beating a little faster but we are yet to get up close to any of these creatures.
Whilst enjoying a discussion with one of the super friendly marine biologists on-board, the vessel makes a sharp turn and races off in a different direction. Have we spotted something?
Pointing and hushed conversations as to where something may have been spotted take place around the deck of the boat. I still haven’t seen anything but heading upstairs to the bridge (you can sit right behind the captain, which is cool), they have definitely seen a splash, and assure us we shortly will also.
What unfolded next was one of the greatest spectacles of wildlife I have seen. The boat slows and four or five dolphins are to be seen playing in the wake of the boat. A moment later they are joined by another ten or so dolphins, before realising we are completely surrounded by what the crew estimates as 50 dolphins, all trying to get up close to the boat as we cruise along slowly.
Moments later we are joined by more, the crew now estimates there are 100 dolphins around the boat. Some just swim along seemingly happy to have some human company, others jump and splash, and the highlight for many was to see a couple of young dolphins learning the ropes from their elders.
We stayed with these dolphins for perhaps thirty minutes. The crew conducted some tests with the water at various points, measuring the amount of krill and other food that is available to the wildlife, always discussing what they were doing with passengers who were asking questions.
Heading back to the viaduct we had a few possible whale sightings but unfortunately on this day we did not see any – the amount of dolphins we saw, and the amount of time we could spend with them was more than enough however so there was certainly no disappointment in this.
I have been on this safari before, and we saw Orcas within fifteen minutes of leaving the shore and ended up seeing perhaps 20 very close up throughout the afternoon, so I was very happy to see some dolphins on this trip.
I would take this tour purely for the scenery, the wildlife are just an amazing bonus. What’s more, if the whales and dolphins elude your group you are given a voucher to join another tour free of charge.
Highly recommend this tour, for any age, as a great way to spend an afternoon when in Auckland.
About Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari.
Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari is a small privately owned business that was opened in 2000. They are the only daily whale and dolphin viewing company that operates out of a New Zealand city. Furthermore, the company privately funds and supports marine wildlife studies through universities, trusts, and Government departments. Their goal with these tours is to inform and educate the guests about the fragile balance of human existence and the direct impact on the incredible marine life and marine environment. As an ecotourism company, AWADS strives to provide an environmentally friendly travel experience, so that all guests can appreciate the marine nature, while having as little impact on the environment as possible.
The trips leave at 1:30 pm every day (including weekends) from the viaduct harbour in downtown Auckland city. The cost of the trip starts at $180 for one adult, with children, senior and family options available. The guarantee a marine mammal viewing, or you will get the chance to come back for free. All trips are also dependent on ocean swells and may be subject to cancellation if rough seas are present. The trips last for approximately 4.5 hours, with roughly 4 hours on the sea. In the event that the boat is forced back to shore early, guests will be given a voucher for a complimentary trip on another day. There is also a licensed cafe aboard the boat selling snacks and drinks, however, you may wish to bring a packed lunch as well.