New Zealand is a great place to go whale watching. And whales are such interesting creatures. Did you know the blue whale’s heart is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle? The mind boggles. To help you prep for your whale-watching tour in New Zealand and learn a bit more about these amazing creatures, we have created a list of 10 mind-blowing facts about whales.
We asked the crew at Wings Over Whales in Kaikoura what makes these mysterious creatures of the deep so special. Having operated scenic whale watching flights for over 20 years, they know some pretty cool facts about whales…
There are two different groups of whale
Whales fall into one of two groups, filter feeders, or toothed. Toothed whales have large teeth for catching prey, while filter feeders filter theirs. Makes sense! The largest toothed whale is the sperm whale, which can be found right here in Kaikoura. The sperm whale can grow up to 20.4 metres long and can weigh up to 50 tonnes.
They eat a million calories a day
Whales don’t do anything in small measures, and their diet is no exception. Blue whales can eat up to 40 million krill per day, which can weigh up to 3,600 kilograms.
Whales have a long family history
Whales’ earliest ancestors lived 50 million years ago, meaning that – along with lizards like our Tuatara – they are one of our few remaining connections to the age of the dinosaurs.
Whale tails are all unique
Each whale has a tail that’s uniquely identifiable, just like human fingerprints! Their slits, grooves, and brown algae spots are gained over time and can’t be replicated.
Boy they are fast
A blue whale’s tail can create up to 500 horsepower when moving at full speed – up there with our best energy sources! If they are startled they can reach speeds of up to 45 km/h, but generally, they feed at 8-16 km/h.
Beluga whales can smile
Belugas are really social mammals that live, migrate and hunt together in pods. Their bulbous forehead is flexible and capable of changing shape. This makes them the only member of the cetacean family that can make facial expressions!
They make a lot of noise down there
Blue whales are one of the loudest animals on earth – the sounds they make can be heard by whales up to 1,600 kilometres away.
They’re just like us…kind of
Whales are warm-blooded mammals, meaning that they breathe air and produce offspring and milk just like other mammals. The blue whale takes out the prize again, this time for having the largest mammary glands on Earth – each is about 1.5m long!
Whales love New Zealand
There are more than 40 species of whales roaming our oceans today. Almost half of the world’s whale and dolphin species can be found in New Zealand, which makes it a great place to keep your eyes peeled whenever you are on the coast.
Whales in Maori Legend
Whales are special and can evoke a feeling in us that is similar to the one you get when you look at the stars. It comes as no surprise then, to discover that whales were considered supernatural guardians to the Maori on their voyages across the pacific. Some tribes see whales as the descendants of Tangaroa, the god of the ocean. Whales possess a tapu (sacred) significance to Maori as both supernatural beings and as harbingers of personal change and spiritual growth.
Where to see them
If you’re in the South Island and want to see these amazing animals, head to Kaikoura, the whale watching mecca of New Zealand. Soar above the ocean with ‘Wings Over Whales’ and get a true appreciation for the size and beauty of these magnificent creatures. Their high-winged aircraft will allow you the comfort of a unique whale watching experience from your very own window seat with optimal and unobstructed viewing.