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7 Whale and Dolphin Species to See in Auckland

Whales and dolphins in Auckland to look out for.

Some of the oceans most impressive marine mammals reside in the waters of Auckland city. It’s not all that uncommon to see whales and dolphins in Auckland by chance, whether it’s pods of orca swimming into the harbour or a dolphin show seen from the ferry to Great Barrier Island, Waiheke Island or Rangitoto Island. There are even whale and dolphin tours in search for the marine mammals.

More than 22 species of whales and dolphins can be seen in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, the body of water on the east side of the region. We’ve listed some of the largest and most common sightings in Auckland’s waters for you.

So, while you’re out on the water or even on the shores of Auckland, keep an eye on the ocean. You never know what creature you might see leaping from the water…

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1. Bryde’s Whale

These surface feeders are the most-seen whale species in the Hauraki Gulf. Rushing to the surface in a sweep, they engulf huge schools of fish, creating a ruckus under the surface, while sea birds make the most of the panic created to get an easy catch. The Hauraki Gulf is home to about 50 resident Bryde’s whales, so you have great chances to spot them here.

Scientific name: Balaenoptera edeni


2. Bottlenose Dolphin

The most common dolphin in Auckland can be seen all year round playing around the wake created by passing boats. They are an average of 3.5 metres long, impressively agile, and remarkably smart. The fact that they are always keen to put on a show may be reason why bottlenose dolphins are a crowd favourite.

Scientific name: Tursiops truncatus

3. Common Dolphin

Much smaller than their bottlenose relatives, the common dolphins reach only 2-metres long. Common dolphins have impressed the scientific community by being able to cooperate when hunting prey making them one of the most effective hunters of their family.

Scientific name: Delphinus delphis

4. Sei whale

Known for its speed, the Sei whale can reach up to 50km per hour! That’s faster than many small sail boats and pretty impressive for a 15-metre (on average) creature. The Sei whale leaves the Hauraki Gulf for the cold arctic waters where food is plentiful. Then they come back to the warmer New Zealand waters to raise their calves.

Scientific name: Balaenoptera borealis
Christin Khan on Wikipedia

5. Dwarf Minke Whale

Averaging 7 metres long, the dwarf minke whale is a bit of a mystery. It is not often seen in the Hauraki Gulf, as they usually prefer the cold Arctic waters full of krill. When in the New Zealand’s waters, they feed on small fish and squid. If you spot one, take as many pictures as possible! The Department Of Conservation is always keen on new footage of this species. You can learn more about reporting your findings in Find the Rare Maui Dolphin.

Scientific name: Balaenoptera acutorostrata subspecies
 Wade Lehmann on Flickr

6. Long-finned Pilot Whale

Incredibly hard to differentiate from their “short finned” cousins, the long-finned pilot whale is sadly one of the whale species the most likely to get stranded. Long-finned whales have often been seen along with bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales in what is described as a “non-aggressive association” meaning that they may be cooperating.

Scientific name: Globicephela melas
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7. Orca

You may have heard of these guys being called “killer whales”. That’s because orcas are amazing hunters. They are capable of hunting even the much faster dolphins using a stealth approach and rushing attacks in their pods. It is truly incredible to witness. Orcas are mammals too so they have a great bond with their calves and should not be separated from each other.

Scientific name: Orcinus orca

More whale and dolphin encounters in New Zealand

Can’t get enough of our finned-friends? Us neither! Check out these articles to see how you can see more whales and dolphins in New Zealand.

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