When is the best time to go whale watching in Auckland?
The answer is...in Auckland, any time of year is a good time to go whale and dolphin watching!
Are the whales really here year round?
In many areas of the world, whale watching trips depend on migratory whales to be in the area. This means that these species are only present at certain times of the year. An example is the humpback whale who travels from the polar seas towards the equator at the start of winter, to give birth and reproduce. Then, travels back to the cooler seas to feed as winter comes to an end.
However, here in Auckland, we are fortunate to be home to a Nationally Endangered species of whale - the Bryde’s whale. The Bryde's whale is non-migratory. In fact, they are called a ‘resident’ population as they are seen in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park year-round. This makes Auckland one of the few places in the world where you can see a baleen species of whale at any time of year and so easily. Sometimes they can be found quite close to Auckland city whilst other times they are further out into the Hauraki Gulf.
A Bryde's whale seen close to Auckland City with Rangitoto volcano in the background (left) and further out close to the Coromandel Peninsula (right)
The Hauraki Gulf is visited by other whale species from time to time including sei whales and pygmy blue whales (2018 was a bumper year for sightings of both of these species!). During the migration season (either end of Winter), you may also get very lucky and see other species of whales, including the humpback whales and southern right whales.
Other species of whale may visit the Hauraki Gulf during the year such as pygmy blue whales (left) and humpback whales (right)
What about the dolphins?
In addition to our Bryde's whales, there is also the bonus of a resident species of dolphin in the Hauraki Gulf – the common dolphin. Also here year-round, the common dolphins can be seen in group sizes on average of a couple of hundred but can be seen in smaller groups of around 50 through to superpods of several thousand.
Common dolphins on a crisp Winter's day
Dependent on the time of year, the common dolphins can be seen exhibiting different types of behaviour. In the warmer months, group sizes tend to be smaller and the animals spend more time resting, socialising and playing than in the colder months when their focus is on feeding to maintain their fat layer.
Orca and bottlenose dolphins can also be seen on our trips as they pass through the area throughout the year. These coastal species visit the Hauraki Gulf from time to time and can often be seen socialising or foraging in small groups.
What about the weather?
Depending on the time of year that you come out on safari with us, you should be prepared for the weather.
In the warmer months, the Hauraki Gulf experiences mostly calm and sunny days so remember to bring your hat and sunglasses. We provide sun cream on board free of charge.
In the cooler months we can experience some absolutely stunning crisp and sunny days but remember to layer up and bring your hat, gloves and scarf. Whilst it may be cold, the Winter months have the advantage of watching the sunset with a cup of hot chocolate on the way home!
Remember, no matter what time of year, we recommend bringing a rain jacket - after all, you are going out on the ocean!
If you would like to see what we have seen throughout the year, head on over and subscribe to our YouTube channel