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Dolphin Swimming in New Zealand – Backpacking Tips

All you need to know about swimming with dolphins in New Zealand

One of the best experiences from my early days in New Zealand was swimming with dolphins. Not in a big tour, but in a small group of about 10 people. Unlike in many other countries, there are still some nice places in New Zealand where you can swim with dolphins relatively undisturbed. There are commercial offers with different group sizes as well as the possibility to jump into the water all by yourself and enjoy the time with dolphins.

Here we want to show you a few of the places where you have a good chance of seeing dolphins in New Zealand. We also link to tour operators that offer discounts on their tours, so you can save some money and still book a good tour. All tours can be booked on site or at the local tourist information, but online it is faster and sometimes (depending on time and capacity) a bit cheaper.

 

 

How much does dolphin swimming cost in New Zealand

Prices for dolphin swimming in New Zealand, start from around 100 NZD. However, depending on the length and scope of the tour, you can quickly spend considerably more. It helps a lot to find the right price if you play with date and time of the linked tours on Bookme, because you can save a lot of money.

Guarantee for dolphin swimming

Unlike in many other parts of the world, dolphins in New Zealand are not kept in an aquarium. Therefore, on most tours there is no guarantee that you will see dolphins, let alone swim with them. Due to the conservation of nature in New Zealand, there are clear (very strict) rules for all tour operators that offer dolphin swimming. So, when you book, make sure that your operator offers a possibility to get a second tour (at a discount or even for free) if you don't see any dolphins. Some tour operators will offer you the possibility to come along again if there is nothing to be found that day.

 

Dolphin Swimming on the North Island of New Zealand

Dolphin swimming on the North Island of New Zealand, was especially famous in the Bay of Islands around Paihia. But already in 2019 swimming with the bottlenose dolphins there was prohibited. Because of this restriction there is only one (known to us) tour with dolphins on the North Island where you have the chance to swim with the dolphins. You can still see dolphins in the Bay of Islands and many other beautiful places. Only swimming with dolphins is known to us only in Tauranga. For dolphin tours that are only about watching dolphins, there is a separate blog post that you should read.

 

Tauranga

Tauranga is situated on the Bay of Plenty and therefore has excellent access to the Maritime Wildlife. Apart from dolphins, you may be lucky enough to see orcas and other large (and small) fish. If you are lucky you may even spot turtles.

Orca Wild Adventures: Orca Wild Adventures is the only tour operator in the Bay of Plenty and Tauranga that offers dolphin swimming. Besides the unique experience of swimming with dolphins, each tour includes a delicious lunch. You can also join a guided snorkel tour to experience the beautiful underwater scenery. Additionally, there is a short stop at one of the most beautiful New Zealand islands off the Bay of Plenty. There you will have the opportunity to go into the water if the weather is fine. Wetsuit and snorkelling equipment are included in the tour. Coffee, tea and lunch (special requests must be announced in advance – vegetarian/vegan or similar) are also included. The tour length is approximately 8.5 hours from check-in. Normal price for adults NZD 150, children NZD 100 or the family package (2 adults + 2 children under 15 years) for NZD 400.

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Dolphin Swimming on the South Island of New Zealand

Here we would like to introduce you to places and tours that you can experience on the South Island of New Zealand. For your convenience, we've sorted all the places in alphabetical order so you can find the right city/town more quickly. Do you know a dolphin swim tour that is not listed here yet but should be in the article? Then we would appreciate your comment here under the article.

Akaroa

In Akaroa you have the chance to swim with the smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector Dolphins. These are found in and around the bay off Akaroa. So, take the unique opportunity to swim with the smallest dolphins and have a nice tour.

Black Cat Cruises: Black Cat Cruises is one of two tour operators in Akaroa that can offer dolphin swimming. Directly from the harbour in Akaroa, Black Cat Cruises departs. However, even here the conservation rules are strict and therefore there is no guarantee of swimming with dolphins. Lonely Planet has also included the tour in its top 10. There are only 12 swimmers per tour who can swim with the dolphins. So, it does not get too crowded in the water. The tour price includes all necessary equipment, wetsuit, goggles and snorkel. On board you will get cocoa and biscuits, you can of course also take your own food on board. There is also a free postcard, so you can tell your friends about the great experience. After the tour you can have a hot shower in the harbour and wash off the sea water. The length of the tour is indicated as approximately 3 hours from check-in. Normal prices for adults NZD 185, children (8-15 years) NZD 155.

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Black Cat Cruises offers a partial refund if you were not able to see dolphins (50% refund) and a partial refund if you were not able to swim with them (25% refund).

 

 

Onuku Farm Hostel: The Onuku Farm Hostel also offers dolphin swimming in Akaroa. The big advantage here, the groups are even smaller and the whole thing is a little less commercial. At the same time, I had my first dolphin swimming experience here at Onuku Farm Hostel in 2015. Also, the prices for dolphin swimming with Onuku Farm Hostel are a bit cheaper. The tour price includes wetsuit, snorkel and fins as well as a warm cup of tea and a small snack on the way. A hot shower is also available at Onuku Farm Hostel after the tour. The whole tour takes about 4 hours. Normal price for the Dolphin Swim Tour is 150 NZD.

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And the dolphins can fly! What an amazing capture 😱 #dolphinswimming #hectorsdolphins #onuku #akaroa #bankspeninsula #nzmustdo #newzealand

A post shared by Onuku Farm Hostel (@onukufarmhosteldolphinswimming) am

 

Picton

Picton is not only the gateway to the surrounding sounds, but also the ferry port from the North to the South Island and back. So, there is also a single provider for dolphin swimming in Picton. Apart from that Picton is a rather small but beautifully situated place and the surrounding sounds offer many possibilities for nice experiences.

The E-Ko Dolphin Swimming Tour: From Picton, the E-Ko Dolphin Swimming Tour offers you the opportunity to swim with the dolphins in their natural environment. In the sounds around Picton you can hear mainly dusky dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. With a bit of luck, you can also meet (but not swim with) the rare hectare dolphins, which you can often find in Akaroa. The tour is between 2-4 hours long, depending on the situation and weather. Please note that the tour will only take place with a minimum number of participants, therefore the tour can be cancelled at short notice. To make sure the tour takes place, you should call the evening before, so you can avoid disappointment. During the tour coffee, cocoa and biscuits are included. Participation in the dolphin swim is possible from 12 years of age. Normal price for the Dolphin Swimming Tour with E-Ko Tours is adults 165 NZD, children (12-15 years) 135 NZD.

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Friendly playful Dusky dolphins at E-ko. Great experience

A post shared by E-Ko Tours (@ekotoursnz) am

 

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is idyllically situated on the east coast of the South Island. Depending on the season you can swim with dolphins or discover whales. Thanks to its location Kaikoura is the whale watching destination of many, and accordingly there are several tour operators. However, there is only one tour operator for dolphin swimming. Located directly on State Highway 1 (SH1), this is a good place to make a short stop if you are passing Kaikoura on your way anyway.

Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura: Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura, is the only known tour operator in the region offering dolphin swimming. You can swim in the open ocean with the dusky dolphins, who are said to be the most curious and playful dolphins. The tour is definitely one of the bigger ones and therefore it can get quite crowded. However, the chance of dolphins here is great and on almost every tour dolphins are seen and dolphin swimming is made possible. Included in the tour are all necessary equipment, wetsuit, goggles & snorkel and fins. Light refreshments with biscuits and cocoa are available on board. The whole tour takes about 3.5 hours. Of this, about 2.5 hours are on the water. Tours are offered all year round (only closed on 25.12.). GoPro's and necessary accessories can be rented on site if required (at extra charge). Normal price for the Dolphin Swim Tour with Encounter Kaikoura is 210 NZD for adults and 195 NZD for children (8-14 years).

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Grey days are never dull when #duskydolphins are around! ☁️🐬😍📷:@benweatherley.nz 👌

A post shared by Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura (@dolphinencounterkaikoura) am

 

Porpoise Bay (Catlins Region)

In the so-called Porpoise Bay, at the very bottom of the South Island, there is a bay famous for its playful dolphins. If you are lucky, you can slip into your swimsuit and swim with the dolphins near the beach. Unlike the guided tours, you will need a lot of luck. And for people who like to freeze, a wetsuit is recommended, because it can be quite cold in the south. Nevertheless, this is a magical experience and the dolphin swim in Porpoise Bay is something that few people can experience on their trip.

At the end of the bay there is also a small hill, from where you can also just watch the sea and the dolphins when they are there.

 

Tell us about your dolphin swimming experience in New Zealand

We would be very happy if you share your experience with us. Have you done a tour? Where, how was it, would you do it again? This way you can give tips to future travellers and of course benefit from reading comments yourself when planning a dolphin tour. Thanks a lot!

 

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