Research and Conservation

Learning more about the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and its inhabitants 

Join the qualified marine researchers on board New Zealand’s most accessible marine research vessel and learn about how your ticket purchase for your whale and dolphin watching tour is contributing directly to marine conservation. 

Conservation is at the heart of everything we do and is a core principle of our business. We are privileged to operate in the stunning environment of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Everyone in this company takes our responsibility to protect our natural heritage and preserve our environment seriously. 

Research Programmes 

Over the past 20 years Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari has developed strong relationships in the area of research and conservation, including government departments, NGOs, registered charities and educational institutions. We are dedicated to the protection of the marine environment, not only locally in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, but globally through spreading awareness and acting as role models to individuals and businesses worldwide. 

We support a range of research both on board the Dolphin Explorer and through data sharing. Our marine mammal sightings database contains long-term environmental and behavioural data which contributes to the Department of Conservation’s National Sightings Database. As we have been collecting this data since 2000, it is of significant value to be able to understand inter-annual changes as well as overall changes in the ecosystem over time. 

We also collect data on other aspects of the marine environment including other megafauna (like seabirds and sharks) as well as the microfauna (plankton). 

Alongside our own data collection, our vessel is a ‘platform of opportunity’ for researchers from different institutions to collect valuable data for their studies. 

Find out about our current research projects and partners 

Interacting with marine mammals 

All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1978) meaning that it is an offence to kill, injure, harass or disturb them. Read the full Marine Mammal Protection Act

The Marine Mammal Protection Regulations (1992) govern how commercial operators and the general public should behave around marine mammals. Failing to adhere to these rules can result in a heavy penalty. As a responsible commercial operator, we strive to demonstrate these rules during our safaris. You can read DOC’s user-friendly version of the rules, or view the full Marine Mammal Protection Regulations

World Cetacean Alliance Partnership 

We are proud to be a Responsible Whale Watching Partner of the World Cetacean Alliance helping to develop joint initiatives to share scientific data, improve standards for whale and dolphin watching and develop education programmes shared by onboard naturalists across the world.   

Find out more on our responsible whale watching page

Pest-Free status

Several islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park are proudly pest-free, and are home to some endangered and vulnerable species, including the tuatara, takahē and a wide range of other birdlife. Introduced pests like rats, mice, stoats, plague skinks and Argentine ants can kill our native wildlife and destroy their habitats if they get onto the islands.

To help protect the islands, we possess a Pest-Free warrant from the Department of Conservation, which means we meet the biosecurity standards to be able to visit these islands. You can help us keep the Hauraki Gulf Islands pest-free by preparing for your safari (even if we’re not planning to stop on an island) as follows:

  • Check your bags when packing for your trip for stowaway pests like rats, mice, skinks and ants. Rats can swim as far as 1.5km, so we don’t want to accidentally let one hitch a ride!
  • Keep food containers closed or sealed and close your bags carefully
  • Make sure your shoes, pockets and clothing are free of plant matter or seeds – weeds can be a major threat to these pristine islands
  • Soil can carry diseases that affect plants and animals. Disinfect any clothing, shoes or equipment that’s been in contact with wildlife in the last three months

If we are planning to stop off on a pest-free island (for example, on a charter trip), keep the following in mind:

  • We’ll ask you to check your bags, gear and shoes before you come on board, and clean them if necessary
  • Plants and animals on the islands are protected and must not be interfered with in any way. This includes feeding the animals or taking any plant or animal matter off the island as a ‘souvenir’.
  • Stay on the marked walking tracks while visiting the islands
  • We have a ‘pack in, pack out’ policy. Everything you take onto the island must come back to the boat with you, including rubbish.
  • The skipper will give a biosecurity talk before we arrive at the island to go over these points.

Find out more about protecting the Hauraki Gulf islands from pests.

Million Metres Partnership

We’ve made it easy for you to reduce your carbon footprint through our partnership with Million Metres. Add a $10 donation to your tour booking to plant a native tree and help restore our waterways. You can also make a donation while you’re on board.

Find out more about our Million Metres partnership.

Sustainable Coastlines Sponsorship

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari is a proud Bronze sponsor of Sustainable Coastlines. Established in April 2009, the Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust is a multi award-winning New Zealand charity that exists to connect people to nature and inspire change. Sustainable Coastlines supports communities around Aotearoa to prevent litter and restore waterways.

Find out more about Sustainable Coastlines.

Sir Peter Blake Marine Education And Recreation Centre (MERC) Sponsorship

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari is a proud sponsor of Sir Peter Blake MERC through their annual Steps for Change event and additional fundraising events. Sir Peter Blake MERC is a not for profit whose mission is to provide life-changing marine environmental education and outdoor experiences for young New Zealanders.

Find out more about Sir Peter Blake MERC.

Marine Research Internships 

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari offers regular hands-on volunteer marine research internships. Developed through years of experience with marine research and data collection on board our platform of opportunity, these three-month internships offer a unique opportunity to gain marine research experience on board an ecotourism vessel.  

There are currently no internships available – check this page or follow us on Facebook for updates. 

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International: (+64) 9357 6032
NZ (Free): 0508 DOLPHINS (365 744)


New Zealand Maritime Museum, 175 Quay Street, Viaduct Harbour, Auckland 1010

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