Sustainability is at the core of all we do here at Eagle Wing Tours, and we’re always happy to hear of other whale watching companies who share our values.
Whale Watch Kaikoura is a world leader in sustainable tourism. They’re New Zealand’s only vessel-based whale watching company and are recognized internationally for their eco-efforts. They’ve won multiple awards for responsible tourism, plus many more for their positive contributions to cultural heritage and community.
As a Maori-owned company, the twin values of hospitality to visitors and reverence for the natural world are front and centre of all they do. They’re committed to providing a quality whale watching experience while carefully managing the use of this rare natural resource.
Lisa Bond is the Marketing Manager of Whale Watch Kaikoura. She first started with the company in 1995 as a guide, then worked her way up to captain, and finally landed in a marketing role. And now, as Marketing Manager, Lisa has the great privilege of representing this wonderful company not only in New Zealand, but also abroad. She’s travelled to places she never dreamed she would travel to, such as India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
Having filled so many integral roles within the company, Lisa offers incredible insight into the lives of these magnificent creatures. Here’s what she had to say:
The Whales & Ocean
What is your story for how you first fell in love with whales?
I started working for Whale Watch Kaikoura in 1995 at the ripe age of 19 years as a guide out on our tours. Before then, I had not really spent too much time on the ocean, but from the first time I saw a whale my heart was captured. I fell in love with these gentle giants of the ocean and knew this was what I wanted to do—watch whales, care for whales and see them protected so that my grandchildren and their grandchildren after that can see them in their natural environment also.
Over your 18 years of experience in whale watching, what moment/story stands out as the most spectacular?
We were watching a pod of around 1000 dusky dolphins when all of a sudden they disappeared as quick as you could click your fingers, but one lone dusky dolphin was left behind.
We had a sneaking suspicion this meant orcas were not too far away and sure enough along they came. Most of the time when orcas visit the area they are passing through, but not this time. They were in hunting mode and were in fact teaching their young how to hunt.
It was like this lone dusky dolphin sacrificed itself for the safety of the rest of the pod. What we saw that day was something that would take National Geo or similar a long time to capture on film. That day what we witnessed was nature at its best and as much as I would like to say the dolphin survived, it unfortunately didn’t, but a boat load of passengers and crew went home that day with a deeper respect for these beautiful creatures.
Do you have any heroes in regards to whale conservation, naturalism, or biology? Why?
Dr. Ingrid Visser and her amazing dedication and love for the orcas of not just New Zealand, but the world. She is continually being a mouthpiece for these amazing creatures and spends many hours following the pods of orcas that reside in New Zealand and getting vital information. She is someone who goes about her work in such a passionate way. It is inspiring for many.
A mother isn’t supposed to pick favourites, but if you had to choose one, which is your favourite marine mammal? And more importantly why?
The blue whale. It is mind boggling to think that a creature that can grow up to 33m long and weigh up to 190 tonnes can swim along with such ease. Also, even though they are the largest creatures in the world they eat the smallest in the food chain. I have been blessed with many sightings of the blue whale and each time it is a reminder or how small we are and how much we can learn from these gentle giants.
What do you see as the biggest issue in marine conservation at the moment?
There are many issues around the world that are cause for concern, but something that is of real concern is the amount of plastic that is found on decomposed whales, dolphins, seals and marine birds. Plastic left on land to fly around and end up in our waterways is deadly. For the marine mammals looking for food, plastic can look like jellyfish. Once swallowed, they are made to feel full. However, it is not so and they end up starving. Plastic lids off fizzy drink (soda) bottles get stuck in dolphin blowholes and cause suffocation, and plastic strapping and rings get caught around penguins, turtles, seals and other birds and can cause a slow and painful death. Humans are of the mind sight that they can throw their rubbish around—the old out of sight out of mind kind of thing —and we are all guilty of the over use of plastic. We need to find better ways, less pollutant ways, reduce, reuse and recycle – recycle – recycle.
How does whale watching play a significant role in marine conservation?
We have an opportunity to show people whales in their natural environment. We are visitors and respect that. We have many rules and regulations to abide by, such as no more than 3 vessels within 300m of a whale (this includes helicopters and aeroplanes). We do not get in the whales’ natural path, we stay either behind or alongside the whale and are not allowed any closer than 50m to the whale.
Watching whales in Kaikoura has turned this community around. Once a town struggling with high unemployment, we now have a community of people with many job opportunities, whether it be in our business or other businesses that benefit from people visiting our town—accommodation / food / retail and other tourism businesses.
We also have an opportunity when our guests are with us to educate them on the issues facing not just whales but other species of marine life worldwide, and steps they can make individually to help protect them for future generations to enjoy, rather than read about in books.
How does marine conservation impact humans?
Again, out of sight out of mind. We dump pollution in our waters thinking it is gone with no effect. However, we know this is not so with many species of marine life. This is also affecting the fish that we eat. Some parts of the world, where there have been oil spills or pollution problems, have marine life showing up deformed, which is of huge concern. We simply cannot carry on doing what we are doing and thinking it is ok. Only humans are to blame for the state of the world’s oceans and especially the huge depletion in fish stocks that were once upon a time found in abundance. We take too much and we do not leave not enough for marine life to survive on. All because of greed.
What are some of the best online resources for marine conservation?
We’ve heard of course, about the tragedy with the family of orcas who beached off of Tuatapere What has the response been in the community on the South Island?
It was sad to hear of this tragedy, and hopefully there is an opportunity for a cause to be identified with the research to be undertaken. There was also recently a stranding of pilot whales off an area called Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island. The response from the public to help from both incidents was overwhelming and shows how much people care and want to see these amazing creatures looked after and cared for.
Lessons from Whale Watch
What has been a consistent strength for Whale Watch over the years?
That of hard work and determination in seeing a dream become a reality, and upholding the twin values of hospitality to our visitors and reverence for the natural world (Manaakitianga & Kaitiakitanga). A philosophy that embraces people, the land, the sea and all living things as one.
In your logo there is a figure riding a whale. If you had to ride a whale into battle which one would it be and why?
The battle against plastic—the silent killer that sadly roams the oceans worldwide.
Are there any other local eco-tourism companies you would like to recommend if someone visits the South Island?
Dolphin Encounter, Kaikoura – they provide an amazing service and enable to swim with dusky dolphins in the wild
Albatross Encounter, Kaikoura – for those marine bird enthusiasts this is a must do. Kaikoura gets up to 75% of the world’s marine bird species off our coastline throughout the year
Swim with the Seals, Kaikoura – they take you out to swim with the NZ fur seal who are very playful and curious, a great family run business.
Black Cat, Akaroa – they take you out to swim with the hectors dolphins which are endangered and only found in New Zealand, a very special experience.