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Encounter Foundation

Albatross Encounter Tours

Kaikoura is known as one of the world’s hotspots for pelagic birdlife with up to twelve species of albatross able to be found at various times of the year. The tour is a sea based operation by boat taking you off the spectacularly stunning Kaikoura Coast.

Kaikoura’s vast offshore underwater canyon system, with its nutrient rich waters, is responsible for the variety of sea-life able to be viewed off Kaikoura. A travel time of only fifteen minutes (by boat) is required to commence viewing of a large variety of pelagic birds including albatross (up to twelve species), shearwaters, petrels, penguins, gannets, skuas, terns and more. 

The dedicated Albatross Encounter vessel has been adapted for maximum wildlife viewing opportunities and on board identification guides. We limit capacity to just 11-13 passengers to provide an intimate tour and ensure close proximity to the birds. A full species list and souvenir information pack is provided by the skipper for every tour.

Tour Times

Albatross Encounter tours operate at 9.00am and 1.00pm (with an additional tour at 6.00am in the summer months Nov-Apr).

Tours are by boat and operate all year round and are usually approximately two and a half hours in duration. All our tours are subject to suitable sea conditions on the day and minimum passenger numbers.


Our skippers have an excellent level of knowledge of the seabirds we encounter along the Kaikoura coastline and cater the tour to the customer requirements. Their impeccable service ensures that this tour is suitable for both the general wildlife enthusiast and the avid birder. This is the advantage of tours in Kaikoura; boat trips out to the pelagic birds are usually very short. We carry frozen 'chum' (fishy bits) on the boats that attracts the seabirds very close, offering wonderful opportunities for photography.

Wildlife We Encounter

For many it is the species of albatross that are the biggest attraction. The great albatross, the wanderings and royals, then the smaller albatross (known as mollymawks in New Zealand), the shy (three species), black-browed (two species) and Buller's. We see two species of giant petrel and up to ten species of the smaller petrels. There are about seven species of shearwater including the endemic Hutton's shearwater, which nests in burrows in the Kaikoura Mountains.

Various other species can be seen including two species of skua, the blue penguin and of course the gulls, three species. Three species of tern, various species of shag and the Australasian gannet can also be seen at various times of the year. On the return to shore it is normal to see two or more species of waders to add that final touch to the tour. For a full species list visit our daily tour sighting reports