Kaikoura, on the north-east coast of New Zealand's south island, is the whale-watching capital of the world. But there is another mammal competing for attention there and that's the New Zealand fur seal.
Seals are widespread around New Zealand and on the sub-Antarctic islands. There is also a small population in Western Australia. They were hunted to the brink of extinction by early European settlers, but the population is now estimated to be between 50-60,000 and increasing by two percent every year.
There are several colonies around Kaikoura Peninsula. Females give birth to a single pup every year from maturity, between four and six, until they die at around 14. Males mature between five and six years, but are unlikely to be mature enough to defend their territory for another three years.
Fur seals forage at sea for up to eight days, returning to shore to rest and suckle pups. When seen lying on rocks, they are not sunbathing, merely resting.
They have a thick fur coat over a thick layer of blubber, so are well insulated at sea. When ashore, they are vulnerable to overheating, so periodically enter the water to cool down. This is where your fun comes in.
Seal Swim Kaikoura is a family-owned company and has been operating since 1987. It caters solely to seal swimmers and likes to keep groups small, as the seals respond better. There will be someone with you the entire time in the shallow waters, ensuring you enjoy the simple but marvellous experience. The operators work diligently at ensuring the seals' natural behavioural patterns are not disturbed. Fur seals are curious, friendly and playful. Warm wetsuits are provided and boat-based or land-based tours are offered. They have the same duration and interaction times.
You don't need to be a strong swimmer to enjoy swimming with the seals. The wetsuits provided have similar buoyancy to that of a life jacket. There is no strict age limit for children. It's up to the head guide on the day to weigh up weather conditions and the child. Babysitters can be arranged.
Kaikoura on New Zealand's south island.
Seal Swim Kaikoura tours are around $60 for adults and $52 for children over the age of five. They run between October and April. Tours run up to around 2½ hours and may vary depending on tides and weather. Air New Zealand has flights to Christchurch.
One-way fare from;
- Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, $239
- Cairns, $379
- Adelaide, $432
- Perth, $548
Tickets are on sale until November 26, 2006. For flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth between February 1-May 7, 2007, with limited availability and will not be available on all flights between April 4-22, 2007. Flights from Cairns, valid between December 3, 2006, and March 28, 2007. Conditions apply.
Prices quoted are correct on November 23, 2006.
Seal Swim Kaikoura
58 West End
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 319 618
White Morph Motor Inn
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 319 5014
Fax: +64 3 319 5015
Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476