Swimming with Hector dolphins in Akaroa

Published: February 14, 2015

Akaroa is one of our favourite destinations in New Zealand, and sure we have a few Frenchies in the office but in all objectivity this village is truly a little known gem.

The harbour sits in the caldera of a huge and ancient volcano and is the refuge for the endemic and very rare Hector’s dolphins. You may have the good fortune of seeing them elsewhere but Akaroa is the only spot where you are guaranteed to be able to observe them and more importantly, be able to go swimming with them.

When we took this cruise it was an exciting and touching moment as all the passengers and staff scanned the horizon with the hope of catching a glimpse of these tiny dolphins. At around 1m long they are the smallest dolphin species in the world.

Geared up in our wetsuits, those who wanted to were invited to jump into the water, which is always pretty chilly in the south island! If the dolphins are slow to come out to play, your guide will ask you to tap your mask and snorkel as the sound will entice them closer.

When they did indeed stealthily swim up to us, it was a truly special experience. The Hector’s dolphins are in danger of extinction, and certain scientists are even predicting that by 2030 they will have disappeared. Their number one predator is mankind, especially the threat of them getting caught fishing nets, so please be understanding if unfortunately the dolphins make themselves scarce.

All the equipment is provided along with a safety briefing and you can take a shower once you’re back at the base. Children under 8 years are not allowed to swim with the dolphins but are welcome to watch them from the boat so that they can also have a part in this truly unforgettable experience. 

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