Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf area is one of the world’s most biologically and geographically diverse maritime national park. Over 25 of the 37 southern hemisphere marine mammals have been identified in this marine park, making up almost a third of the world’s population of species!
Explore NZ’s Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari cruise allows visitors from all around the world to experience the Gulf from their comfortable and stable whale watching vessel – the Dolphin Explorer. The Dolphin Explorer catamaran cruises into the expansive Hauraki Gulf, sparkling sheltered waters scattered with island of every size, in search of common dolphins, Bryde’s whales, Orca (also known as killer whale) and bottlenose dolphins as well as various species of birds and fish.
While every adventure is different, dolphins are viewed on more than 90% and whales on 75% of trips, so your chances of getting up close and personal with the most beautiful creatures on the planet are very high. And on the off-chance that you don’t see dolphins or whales, Explore NZ will invite you back for a second sailing at no extra charge under their Lifetime Whale/Dolphin Viewing Guarantee.
The cruise duration is 4.5 hours and departs at 1.30pm/12noon (summer/winter) from the conveniently-located Viaduct. Most of the time onboard the Dolphin Explorer is spent cruising, with the crew always busy in search for marine wildlife in the Gulf. So enjoy the cool breeze as you take in the sights of the Gulf and its islands – do keep a lookout for the penguins and seagulls that roam around the Gulf.
There is a fully licensed bar onboard the Dolphin Explorer – light snacks and refreshments are available for purchase. Our lunch was a boxed lunch of chicken sandwich with a yummy brownie and a small orange for dessert – nicely prepared by Kermadec restaurant. Situated in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, Kermadec specialises in premium fresh seafood, selected daily from the local fresh fish market.
Take advantage of the highly experienced crew’s knowledge while you’re onboard the Dolphin Explorer. They’ll not only take you to the most populated corners of the Gulf, they’ll also give you a running commentary of the culture and history of Auckland’s magnificent Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. There are also guidebooks, maps and pictures of marine life you can expect to see in the Gulf. If you need to answer nature’s call during the 4-hour long cruise, there are also 2 clean toilets onboard – your needs, be it food, drinks or “others” are all covered during the cruise – so rest and enjoy the suntan (if not, you can stay indoor within the boat) and the breeze.
After about an hour of cruising around the Gulf, we spotted Dolphins! With all the excitement and buzz (you’ll hear shouts of joy – ‘Dolphins here’, ‘Wow’), we pretty much forgot what we read about the dolphins – who cares whether they are common or bottleneck dolphins. We were just glad to see these school of dolphins swimming around the catamaran – they were just as glad to see us as they swam playfully around the Dolphin Explorer, occasionally doing a smaller version of the ‘Free Willy’ leap off the water – to the delight of many of us onboard.
The best part to check out the dolphins is at the bow of the catamaran (in layman’s term – forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is most forward when the vessel is underway). Get into your spot early and get your cameras ready (video or multi-shot mode might be the best method to capture them on film as they swim quite quickly)
This is a short video of the dolphins we saw during the Explore NZ Auckland’s Whale and Dolphin Safari. Unfortunately, we did not see any whales this time (whales are spotted on 75% of the cruises) and the captain decided to invite all of us onboard back for a second sailing at no extra charge under their Lifetime Whale/Dolphin Viewing Guarantee as he felt that we did not see enough dolphins this time round. This offer is however not transferrable – the vouchers are issued in your name.
Voted Best Day on the Water by Metro Magazine, Explore NZ’s Whale and Dolphin Safari gives you the opportunity to explore one of the most biologically- and geographically-diverse marine parks in the world. Experience a feeding frenzy involving sea birds, whales and dolphins, or gaze at small pods of dolphins playing around the boat.
Explore NZ’s Whale and Dolphin Safari Tickets for Adults and Children cost NZ$155 and NZ$105 respectively. You can also enjoy a discounted rate for a family day out on the cruise for NZ$399 for 2 Adults and 2 Children. The trip duration is approximately 4.5 hours. For enquiries, please contact Explore NZ at 0800 397 567 or http://www.explorenz.co.nz or book online at http://explore-x.ibisnz.com/.
The cruise departs from the Viaduct Harbor at 1.30pm (October – April) or 12 noon (May – September).