You only go to Kaikora for one reason - to whale watch. OK, you can do other things there but the place is renowned for whale spotting. I was very excited to do this as I've never seen a whale. And we missed them migrating in Australia by less than a month.
We arrived in Kaikora and went straight to the Information Center. We booked a tour with a company that has 95% record for whale encounters - and if you don't see them, you get an 80% refund. Not a bad deal, right? Right - and they had spaces available for that afternoon. Bonus.
Granted it was very foggy that day, but not enough to cancel the trip. And it didn't seem to discourage the captain of the boat or the tour guide, who told us that the trip earlier that afternoon saw 2 whales and dolphins. We were on the lookout for giant sperm whales up to 15m (45 ft) in length. But they don't just surface with the snap of a finger. The boat stopped twice and the captain put some sonar device in the water to listen for signals a whale was in the area. Apparently its a fool proof device. First time, he heard something so we took the boat to another location. Second time, apparently we were getting much closer. Then the third time, he heard nothing and decided there was no chance to see anything because of the fog. Abort mission, about face. WHAT?
So we headed back to shore, no whales, not even a small one to be seen.
Figured we could stay around another day and try to go out again the next morning. So we went to reception and inquired if we could transfer our tickets. "No, sorry, we can't do that. But we'd be happy to give you a 10% discount if you return." WHAT? So in other words, you give us 80% refund, then a 10% discount, which means we would be paying 10% MORE for a trip we had already paid too much to go on in the first place. Haven't you heard of customer service???? Obviously not. So we cut our losses and left with a bitter taste in our mouths. As it was too late to drive to the next destination, we stayed the night. As luck would have it there was a Lions game on that night. So we headed to the only pub in the town and watched the game. The Lions won, which was a good thing - but neither of us was in the mood to be social so we headed back to the campsite for an early retirement.
Course the next day was blue skies with perfect visibility.