This whale watching mecca on the east coast of the South Island has many traditional Māori stories to tell, but probably the most famous in the region, and the one your clients will come across, is that of Paikea.
The story tells of how the ancestors first came to Aotearoa New Zealand, how they found their way to Kaikōura and how these connections led to the founding of the wonderfully successful Whale Watch Kaikōura.
Whale Watch is owned and operated by the indigenous Ngāti Kuri people of Kaikōura, a Māori sub-tribe of the South Island's larger Ngāi Tahu Tribe.
This is Kauahi Ngapora’s story, General Manager of Whale Watch Kaikōura:
“According to legend, Paikea came to New Zealand from the Pacific Islands on the back of a whale many centuries ago. His descendants include the Ngāti Kuri people of Kaikōura.
Paikea was the youngest and favourite son of the chief Uenuku. This favouritism made Paikea's elder brothers extremely jealous and they conspired to kill Paikea while fishing offshore and tell Uenuku he drowned. But the night before the trip Paikea feigned sleep and overheard his brothers plotting. When far out to sea Paikea foiled their plan by deliberately sinking the canoe and drowning his brothers.
Now adrift in a great ocean, Paikea clung to a canoe plank and awaited his own death. It was then that Tohorā the whale appeared and lifted Paikea onto his great back.
Tohorā took Paikea south to New Zealand and the settlement of Whangara just north of present day Gisborne. Here, Paikea began a new and prosperous life.
Ngāi Tahu, the principal iwi (tribe) in the South Island, take their name from Tahupōtiki, a direct descendant of Paikea. Tahupōtiki lived his life in the North Island on the east coast around the area now known as Hawkes Bay. Sometime in the seventeenth century his descendants gradually migrated south to Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island of New Zealand).
The first heke (migration), was that of Ngāti Kuri (a sub-tribe of Ngāi Tahu) - Kuri lived several generations after Tahupōtiki, and it was his descendants who led the heke. The legend of Paikea and Tohorā and their ancestral connection to this, combined with the geography of the Hikurangi trench, provides the unique connection Ngāti Kuri have, with all species of whales that frequent the Kaikōura area.”
The tale of Paikea is referenced in the 2002 critically acclaimed film Whale Rider.
To find out more about the Whale Watch Kaikōura story, watch this video.