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Albatross and Seabird Watching Tours

Get up-close with wildlife on vessels designed to give you the best viewing opportunities

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Albatross Encounter Tours

COVID-19: New Zealand (excluding Auckland) is at Alert Level 2.  WE ARE OPEN and operating in line with government and public health guidelines

Kaikoura is renowned worldwide as a birding hotspot; within just a small area, you'll meet one of the greatest varieties of seabirds and pelagic birdlife you'll find anywhere!

Our tours are by boat, on a vessel designed for purpose. We only take up to 12 people on each tour, so that you can get the best possible chance to see birds up close.

It's typically just a 15-20 minute ride out to encounter the birdlife, during which you'll be treated to spectacular views of the stunning Kaikoura Coast. The whole tour is about 2.5 hours long, giving you plenty of opportunities view and observe the majestic albatross and other species. We carry frozen 'chum' (fishy bits) on the boat, sourced naturally from local commercial fishers, that helps to bring the birds in close allowing  very close viewing and photography opportunities. The discarded offal from the local fishing fleet helps provides a significant portion of the seabirds diet here in Kaikoura.

On-board identification guides, knowledgeable staff and a full species list and souvenir information pack will help you identify and learn more about the birds you see on your trip.

  • Tour Times

    Albatross Encounter tours operate all-year-round.

    Oct-Apr Albatross Encounter Tours are scheduled daily at 9.00am and 1.00pm.

    In winter 2021 (May-Sept) tours are scheduled once daily at 10.00am.

    **Please note that for Summer 2020/2021 and 2021/22 our popular 6am departure will not be regularly scheduled due to reduced demand.  We look forward to reinstating this in the future!**

    Tours are about 2.5 hours in duration. Tour operation is subject to suitable sea conditions on the day and minimum passenger numbers.

    The standard tour provides fantastic viewing opportunities of the pelagic birds. Several albatross species are often seen on the tour.  Extended tours are also available on request subject to availability and minimum numbers; contact our Customer Service Team for more information on this.

    Check Tour Availability

  • Expertise

    You're in fantastic hands. Our skippers know their stuff and are keen to share their knowledge about all the seabirds you'll encounter. They can also cater the tour to what you and others on the boat want, making it a great choice for both the general wildlife enthusiast and the avid birder.

  • Wildlife You'll Encounter

    We encounter a wide variety of albatross species: the great albatross, the wanderings and royals, the smaller albatross (commonly referred to as mollymawks in New Zealand), the Salvin's, white-capped, black-browed and Buller's.

    There's plenty of other amazing birdlife, too. We can see up to 15 species of petrel, including two species of giant. There are about eight species of shearwater including the endemic Hutton's shearwater, which nests in burrows in the Kaikoura Mountains. Of course there can be those very special times when we are surprised by a visit of rarer visitors to the waters off Kaikoura.

    On top of that, you might also see skua, blue penguin and, of course, the gulls (three species). Three species of tern, several species of shag and the Australasian gannet can also be seen at various times of the year.

    For a full species list visit our daily tour sighting reports

    About kaikoura Seabirds  

  • Children Joining the Tour

    Children aged 3 and over are able to participate on the Albatross Encounter tour when accompanied by an adult subject to conditions on the day.  The skipper may deem the weather and sea condition unsuitable for children to partake in the tour and in this instance refunds are available. Children under 3 years are not permitted on board.

  • Seasickness

    Sea sickness is often experienced in Kaikoura waters and even in slight seas, some customers find themselves dealing with motion sickness. We recommend taking medication to combat this prior to your tour. We do sell Sea Legs, ginger tablets and hire out sea bands at the check in counter if you don't have this with you; ask our Customer Service Team about your options when you check in for your tour.

General enthusiast, or avid birder - it's great for everyone!

No matter your level of knowledge or interest, you'll find something at which to marvel

Our skippers really know their stuff, so whether you're an avid birder or just a casual wildlife enthusiast, they'll give you the experience you want.

Because the ride out to the birds is typically a short 15-20 minutes, there's plenty of time to cater the tour to what you and others on the boat would like. You'll see and learn what suits you - and maybe some things you didn't expect!

Looking to spend longer time on the water?

Our standard tours offer incredible viewing opportunities of a wide range of species, however for those wanting to spend longer on the water we can offer an extended four-hour tour on request. Additional time on the water, just might increase the chances of seeing something different to our normal range of species.

Our extended tours are subject to availability at time of request, and require advance notice and a minimum number of passengers to operate. Please get in touch with our Customer Service Team as early as possible to arrange.

What do others say about their encounter?

"Totally unforgettable."
"The highlight of our whole trip to New Zealand."

When you encounter Kaikoura albatross, you will leave transformed. Share the experience.

Kaikoura Seabirds

The types of seabirds you can expect to see.

Learn More


Photos and videos from previous tours!

Albatross Conservation

Protect our very special environment.

Fantastic Local Fare

Coffee and dining at our café, right on the waterfront

Key things to know before your tour

Check out our top tips before the adventure!

Learn More

Contact us for further details or click below to make an Albatross Encounter reservation

We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Standard Tour Pricing



15 years and upwards



3 years to 14 years inclusive

Specialist Tour Pricing



15 years and upwards



3 years to 14 years inclusive

* (Please note this pricing is valid to 30 September 2021)

Oct-Apr Albatross Encounter Tours are scheduled daily at 9.00am and 1.00pm.

In winter 2021 (May-Sept) tours are scheduled once daily at 10.00am.

For everything you need to know about your tour click here.

Check Availability or Book Purchase Gift Voucher

Caring for Our Natural Environment

Caring for Our Natural Environment

We are privileged to have the abundance of marine life here in Kaikoura and we don’t take this for granted. In 2009 we established the Encounter Foundation specifically to support organizations and groups that are actively working on projects that result in improving the health of the natural environment through conservation, education and research.

We donate a portion of each customer fare to the Encounter Foundation to support worthy projects which make an impact on ensuring our environment is preserved and treasured for future generations.

Thank you for enabling us to do this – your support of our business is making a difference in a very positive way.