From whaling to conservation – new seasonal whale watching tour launches in Marlborough Sounds 

Marlborough's E Ko Tours will soon be taking visitors to see migrating whales on their way through New Zealand waters. 

There are several places in New Zealand where you can spot whales as many different species of these gentle giants grace these coastlines throughout the year. 

While Kaikoura is perhaps the best known whale-watching destination in the South Island, a Picton-based company will soon be offering visitors the option to see migrating whales on their way through New Zealand waters. 

During the winter months, E-Ko Tours will add a whale watching option to the company’s year-round dolphin spotting and wildlife cruises in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

The whales passing through belong to the baleen species – which includes humpbacks, southern right whales, fin whales, blue whales and orca.

E-Ko Tours will offer groups of up to 14 passengers the chance to see the whales up close, as well as experience the history behind the Perano Whaling Station. One of the last reminders of New Zealand shore whaling, the station closed down around 50 years ago to give way to a much more peaceful approach to whales in New Zealand waters. 

E-Ko Tours CEO Paul Keating calls the tour “a fantastic opportunity for a limited number of people to have a fully immersive whale experience – from experiencing the history of the whaling station, seeing conservation in action and of course potentially sighting migrating giants on the surface close to shore.” 

The tour starts with a cruise to the Perano Whaling Station, where visitors will be able to see and touch machinery used during New Zealand’s whaling era, as well as sit through an audio visual experience in the former whalers’ recreation hall. 

While the experience will no doubt be sobering for some, the story of how the hunters of the day turned conservationists is a positive one. During the migration season, some are still involved in scanning the sea for whales – but strictly to monitor them and count them for conservation reasons. 

After touring the station passengers will be transported out into the open ocean (no more than 2km from the coastline) in the company’s fully covered vessel, where they will be given their own binoculars and whale ID cards to do their bit for conservation.

The tour will run from 10 June to 20 July, departing 8:00am or 12:30pm for 4-5 hours. Price is $145 per person, with a $50 refund if no whales are sighted (the chance of a sighting is around 80%).