The world's smallest dolphins in Akaroa Harbour. © Norbert Trewin

Akaroa Marine Reserve


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Akaroa is a very special place, visited by the world’s smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphin. The Akaroa Marine Reserve lies at the mouth of the harbour and it’s easy to visit the reserve to see wildlife.

Sheer cliffs dotted with caves form the backdrop of the reserve, and huge room-sized boulders lie in the water at their base. There are also numerous small reefs. Giant beds of bull kelp and red algae surround these landforms, which are encrusted with communities of sponges, anemones, sea stars and sea tulips.

The reef around Gateway Point is of particular scientific interest as it supports an extremely rich and diverse fauna and flora – at least ten percent of the bottom-dwelling species found in this area are ‘undescribed’.

Smaller whale species often visit the reserve, and occasionally larger whales such as humpback, southern right and blue.

Hector’s dolphins can usually be seen throughout Akaroa Harbour in the summer months. Common and dusky dolphins are occasional visitors.

There are regular boat tours from Akaroa and some even offer swimming with dolphins.

Hectors Dolphin in Akaroa

 Hector’s dolphin. © Jocelyn Kinghorn  Creative Commons

There's also good birdwatching to be had from a walk or drive along the cliffs with a pair of binoculars.

Kayaks can also be hired in Akaroa township and diving and snorkelling is an option for those experienced and with knowledge of the area.

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