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Guide to a Majestic Time at Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

Guide to a Majestic Time at Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

While in New Zealand, take advantage of the fact that the nation is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Join the tour provided by Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari, and find yourself amidst majestic oceanic creatures you won’t find elsewhere! 

The Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari tour will take you on a 4.5-hour cruise to Hauraki Gulf Marine Park where you’ll find dolphins and whales swimming in their natural habitat. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a few orcas as well!

If you’re curious about this tour, this article has everything you need to know about it.

Things to Know

Address: Berth 9, Eastern Viaduct Marina, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010, New Zealand

Contact Number: +64508365744


Operating Hours

The safari operates every day, except for Christmas Day, and there are usually two departure times: one in the morning and another in the afternoon. 

The timings are subject to change, but more often than not, they remain as follows:

  • Morning Safari
    • Check-In: Closes at 7:45 am
    • Departure: 8 am
    • Return (to the port): 12:30 pm
  • Afternoon Safari
    • Check-In: 1:15 pm
    • Departure: 1:30 pm
    • Return: 6 pm

From April to October, there’s only one standard departure time—sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon—so it’s best if you check the website before going. 

However, the safari will still accept private charters at any time. More on this in the last section of this guide.


The pricing for the safari tour is as follows:

  • Adult: NZ$199
  • Child (0 to 14 years): NZ$136
  • Family (2 adults, 2 children): NZ$502
    • Additional Children: NZ$89 each
  • Senior Citizen (65 years old and above; ID required): NZ$179

You don’t have to book your tickets beforehand; in fact, you can even book shortly before check-in time closes. That said, the safari tends to sell out, especially during the summer, so booking in advance isn’t a bad idea.

History and Background

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari was founded in 2000 as a way to help marine researchers studying marine life and environment. Eventually, they started hosting tours for people curious about whales and dolphins.

They’ve been operating for more than 20 years, and in that time, they have carried more than 150,000 passengers to the deep blue ocean!

The company’s main goal is to educate people about the endangered status of marine life and how we can help. That’s why, aside from hosting tours, they’re also funding universities and government departments that are conducting marine wildlife studies.

Marine Life in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

The whale and dolphin safari tour will take you to the Hauraki Gulf or Tīpaka Moana, which is bounded by the Auckland coastline, the Coromandel Peninsula, the Hauraki Plans, and Aotea. 

The gulf is quite an expanse of water, with an area of 1.2 million hectares. It’s home to countless marine animals; in fact, over 25% of the marine mammals in the Southern Hemisphere have been spotted here. 

Additionally, Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is also visited by more than 20% of the seabirds in the world. Because of all this, the area is incredibly important in the study of marine life and its conservation efforts.

How to Get There

Car: If you prefer to drive to Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari, there’s no on-site parking, but you can find several nearby car parks. One such example is the Downtown Carpark, which is located on Customs Street West.

Bus: If you prefer to take public transportation, the following buses will pass by the safari: 24B, 105, 22N, 24R, and 22R.

Best Time to See Whales and Dolphins

The marine animals at the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park are active year-round, so technically, you can join the safari to see them whenever you want. 

That said, it has been recorded that large pods of dolphins and whales band together during the winter, so if you want to see that, you’ll have to brave the cold. Wintertime is also perfect if you don’t like crowds; the safari is at its busiest during the summer.

Food and Drink

Food and drink are not included in the tour price, but there is a licensed cafe inside the boat, so you can purchase something to eat here. The menu changes often, but some of the items you can expect to be sold are

  • Falafel, hummus, caramelized onion chutney, baby spinach, red onion, and mayo—available as both sandwich and wrap
  • Cheese and tomato sandwich
  • Kumara, brown rice, and almond salad
  • Basil pesto pasta salad with olives, sundried tomato, and spinach
  • Banana or berry muffin

You can also choose to bring your own lunch, snacks, and drinks if you want. Just make sure that your drinks are non-alcoholic because the boat’s liquor license doesn’t allow you to bring your own alcohol. 

You might want to bring your own reusable coffee cup or water bottle as well. The boat staff will refill your bottle for free, and if you buy a hot drink and use your own coffee cup, you’ll receive a 25% discount.


Do you want to surprise a loved one who is passionate about marine life? Then, you should gift them a safari tour voucher! 

You can purchase a voucher online via this page, over the phone, or by email. Vouchers are non-refundable and only valid for 12 months from the moment you purchased it; make sure your loved one gets to use it before it expires!

Rules and Regulations

To ensure a seamless experience at the whale and dolphin safari, be sure to follow the following rules and regulations:

  • You must check in with the crew (at the top of the boarding ramp of the boat in the Viaduct Harbour) at least 15 minutes before the departure time. That way, you can secure your seat. If you haven’t checked in yet, it’s possible your seat will be released to stand-by passengers. 
  • Passengers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult. Additionally, if you’re booking a group that has more than 10 children, you need to complete additional safety paperwork before the tour begins.
  • Swimming isn’t allowed on the tour
  • Drones aren’t allowed on tour either. If you want to take a photo or video, you have to use a phone or a professional camera. You can also use a GoPro so long as you won’t dip it into the water. 
  • Smoking or vaping on board is prohibited
  • If you’re pregnant and in your third trimester, it’s recommended that you don’t join the tour
  • On the off-chance that the tour gets canceled due to severe weather conditions, you can choose to join the tour another day. If not, then the safari will refund you. If you booked online or through a third party, you need to show your booking documents before you get your refund.


Here are a few more tips you need to keep in mind before going on the whale and dolphin safari:

  • You might want to get travel insurance. The safari doesn’t sell travel insurance for the tour, but you can ask your provider for one. Doing so is good practice because it gives you peace of mind while you’re out in the middle of the sea. 
  • Wear a few layers of clothing. To be more specific, wear something warm and wind/shower-proof. As for footwear, wear flat-soled shoes. You might also want to bring a sun hat or warm winter hat and sunglasses.
  • Bring sunscreen. You’ll be spending a lot of time under the sun, so it’s best that you protect your skin from the harsh UV rays. 
  • If you have any medical conditions, let the crew know. That way, they will be prepared to accommodate you. 
  • If you easily get seasick, take the appropriate medication before you go on board. The boat doesn’t carry any medications, but there are Sea-Bands, ginger tablets, and ginger beer. That said, to be safe, it’s better if you bring your own medication. 
  • Life jackets are available. You don’t have to wear them, but if you feel more comfortable wearing one, you can tell the crew.

Overview of the Tour

Riding a 20-Meter Catamaran

When you join the tour, you’ll hop on board a power catamaran named the Dolphin Explorer. This catamaran is 20 meters long, and it can carry up to 100 passengers. 

That said, even though the boat can carry up to 100 people, do take note that there’s a limited number of seats available inside. So, there’s a possibility that all seats are taken, and you’ll have to remain standing for the entire cruise.

This catamaran also has two unisex toilets available inside, so you don’t have to worry about waiting to get back to the harbor to do your business.

A 4.5-Hour Cruise

The catamaran travels at a cruising speed of around 20 knots, which is roughly the same as a car traveling at about 37 km/hr. It’s not quite fast, which is why the entire cruise lasts for about 4.5 hours. 

The pace might be slow, but that allows you to have a leisurely experience. You can simply sit back and relax—or lean on the railing—and enjoy the cool breeze caressing your skin.

Panoramic Views of Beautiful Landmarks

Aside from being able to enjoy the cool air, the cruise also allows you to get panoramic views of beautiful landmarks. In particular, since the boat is heading to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, you’ll be able to see glimpses of Kawau Island and Little Barrier Island. 

This gorgeous scenery is enough to take your breath away!

Marine Mammal Sighting Guarantee

The cruise will take you around the entirety of Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, so you’ll undoubtedly spot various kinds of marine mammals. 

Bryde’s whales and common dolphins are typical sightings, but you might also see some animals that only appear every now and then. A few examples include pygmy blue whales, New Zealand fur seals, sharks, manta rays, turtles, and even orcas! 

If you’re an avian lover, you’ll be delighted to know that 26 species of seabirds also frequent this area. This includes the adorable little blue penguin! 

The safari is confident that you’ll see marine animals during your visit. But on the off-chance that you don’t spot any dolphins and whales (less than 5% of passengers have been unlucky before), you’ll be able to come back and try again for free!

The best part about this complimentary voucher is that it’s open-ended, which means you can redeem it whenever you want!

Research Presentation (Optional)

If you’re a big marine life nerd, then you might want to tune in to the research presentation that the team of experts has prepared for you. This presentation features an in-depth discussion of the different wildlife you’ll see during the cruise. 

Additionally, there are marine science experts on board the cruise, so if you have any questions at all, you can ask them. Engaging in conversation with experts while seeing all the whales and dolphins will make your experience a lot more memorable.

Chartering the Boat for Private Hire

Do you want to see marine animals with your loved ones but preferably without strangers on the same boat? Then, you might want to consider chartering the boat for private hire! 

By chartering the boat, you can have the entire place for yourself and your group. You won’t have to fight for seats or worry about having to stand for the entire time.

Additionally, you can choose your own pick-up or drop-off location if you don’t want to go to Viaduct Harbour. As for food, there are catering options available, as well as access to a licensed bar. 

For more information, check out this page.