What To Expect (And Not Expect) On a Whale And Dolphin Watching Trip

1. The ocean is in motion!

If it’s your first time taking a boat or if you aren’t sure if you get seasick, we advise taking precautionary measures to ensure you have a great day out with us. Seasickness is exactly the same as motion sickness, in that your body is knocked out of balance due to the movement of the boat.

You can buy medication over the counter at pharmacies throughout New Zealand which you just need to take as directed. We also sell Seabands on board if you forget the medication! 

2. The elements

Our safari is four and a half hours long. While we have comfortable indoor spaces, you’re still likely to spend at least some of that time in the open air. It pays to think ahead and prepare yourself.

The ocean itself

It may come as a surprise to some that to go whale watching on a boat, you have to go out on the ocean and the ocean is wet. Honestly, we see those surprised faces on most trips! No matter what time of the year, there is always the possibility of getting water coming over the bow whether that be in the form of sea spray or due to some waves in windier weather.

We recommend always bringing along a rain jacket, you can leave it in our bag storage onboard when you don’t need it. We also have plenty of towels to dry yourself off in case you need one!


Not every day is a calm day on the water. It can be windy, and this breeze can be quite cool depending on the direction. Remember to bring a couple of layers in case you get a bit chilly. You can always take them off again when the sun is out.


The sun here in New Zealand is exceptionally strong, particularly in summer reaching UV values of 12-13 which equates to an average burn time of just 12 minutes. Add into that the well-known fact that sunlight reflects off of the water (haven’t we all learned that from being sunburnt at the pool or beach as a kid?) and you will want to wear and top up your sun cream regularly!

We carry reef-safe sunscreen on board that doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals (oxybenzone, nanoparticles and parabens) so you can slip, slop, slap as often as you need.


If you remember learning about the water cycle at school, you’ll know the majority of rain falls over land. So while it can be a grey and rainy day in Auckland City, it can be the complete opposite on safari in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. However, from time to time we can’t avoid the rain. That’s where the rain jacket you brought along to protect you from the sea spray will come in extra handy!

3. Time

It can sometimes take time to locate marine wildlife. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes and other times it can take a few hours. Patience is a prerequisite for whale watching. You can pass the time by kicking back and taking in the scenery or help us out and keep your eyes on the water – the more people looking, the quicker the wildlife will be found!

4. The ‘wild’ in wildlife

By choosing to book a whale and dolphin watching experience, you are choosing to observe wildlife and that is exactly what they are – wild. We don’t tell them what to do, we don’t entice them over to the Dolphin Explorer and that means their behaviour is entirely down to them and how they feel at the time. That is the magic of getting to watch animals in their natural habitat, we are merely visitors to their home and we are privileged to be able to get a brief insight into their lives and see them behaving however they choose.

We also can’t control what species we see or how many of them – we really mean it when we say every day is different out in the Hauraki Gulf!

We pride ourselves on being able to show our passengers a great time through fantastic encounters with marine wildlife whilst respecting the animals at the same time. We adhere to the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations, created to protect and preserve all marine mammal species which comes first and foremost for us.

5. An educational and entertaining time!  

Our crew work hard to deliver the best experience we can possibly provide each day. Throughout your trip, you will learn about each step of the marine food chain and the importance of each part to ensure a healthy, functioning Hauraki Gulf. There are also opportunities to interact with our crew (many of whom have marine science degrees) by helping them with the vital data collection that we carry out. 

You can get involved and help us with our research during your safari!

To find out more information, you can take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page.