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Motuara Island Sanctuary and Dolphin Watching Tour


    • Cruise calm sheltered waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Exclusive no Seasickness guarantee
  • Experienced captains with fun and informative commentary
  • Personalised small fully guided group tour (1-15 ratio)
  • Onboard binoculars for viewing wildlife
  • Amazing photo opportunities so close you only need a phone
  • Complimentary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits
  • Complimentary local wine on afternoon tour
  • Kids toys, books and drawing boards
  • Free high-quality wildlife photos
  • Bottlenose, Common, Dusky, Hectors Dolphins and Orca
  • Travel with E-Ko and Support local Conservation efforts
  • 100% Guaranteed Endangered Species Encounter
  • HELP Save the Endangered Species (Taonga)

    See how your money gets used for Local Conservation

    Tour info in brief

    4 hours
    8.00 AM, 1.30 PM
    Pricing: Adult: $149 (16+ years)
    Child: $75 (5 – 15 years)
    Infant: $35 (0 – 4 years)
    Location: 1 Wellington Street Picton
    Briefing: 7.45 AM, 1.15 PM

    No Seasickness Guarantee

    FREE Photos

    About the Tour

    The Ultimate Dolphin Watching and Wildlife Cruise.

    Embark on a fully guided dolphin watching and wildlife cruise like no other. Travel from Picton through the Marlborough Sounds on a scenic journey to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary. Our comfortable vessels and expert team take you on a conservation-focused, wildlife adventure for your soul. Expert commentary and fantastic viewing areas allow you to enjoy playful Hector’s, Common, Bottlenose or Dusky Dolphins (90% encounter rate!). We also see NZ fur seals and numerous seabirds before landing on Motuara Island for a 1-hour nature lover’s walk to remember – great for adults and kids alike.

    Read More 

    Dolphin Watching Tours with Birds Included: It’s a Double Whammy

    If you take one of our dolphin watching tours to Motuara Island you will get the best of both worlds, marine life and birdlife. It is a full day’s activity carried out during the best part of the day: beginning at 8am (after a briefing at 7:45) and finishing after 1pm.

    Departing from Picton, you will take a wonderful boat trip through the Marlborough Sounds, where dolphins frolic in their inimitable way, and you will be on board a smooth, stable vessel on calm water where seasickness is unknown, so anyone wary of boats need to have no fear.


    After the dolphin-watching it’s on to Motuara. The special thing about this island is that it is 100% predator-free, which makes it ideal for a bird sanctuary. All manner of birds live here and our guides will give you a running commentary on what is around, perhaps spotting fascinating characters that would go undetected by the untrained eye. There are blue penguins, rare saddlebacks and the yellow-crowned parakeet, to name but a few. The sounds on this dolphin watching and wildlife eco tour are as remarkable as the sights because there is nothing quite as joyous as the singing of birds such as the bellbird. On the visual front, there are also beautiful robins and native pigeons to look at.

    A Fabulous Day Out for the Nature Lover

    Everyday life can be a humdrum affair, but wherever you live, you will feel a million miles away and a thousand times more relaxed as you cruise past the dolphins and furry seals with the marine birds crying overhead. From Motuara on a clear day, you can make out the North Island – and wait till you see the view from the Cook Strait lookout.

    Sense the History

    This is a historic part of New Zealand, and many people get a real feeling of prehistory here because it is easy to get the sense of being the only person who has ever been here. More recently, there is the Captain Cook connection, and our experienced E-Ko Tours guides will give you all the info you need about such things.

    All in all, this is an incredible day out for all the family, dolphin-watching and taking a guided wildlife ramble. Parents love to see their children having fun in the fresh air and learning, rather than huddled over a phone in their room. For adults, there is no better way to shake off the cares of the world by being in a part of it where nature rules. Traffic? Noise? Stress? Not around here. It makes you glad to be alive.

    Our nature tours in NZ are also popular with couples of all ages. What could be more romantic than sharing such a wonderful experience with someone you love? If you would like to get up close and personal with the dolphins check out our dolphin swimming tours.

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    Huang lei Kiwi release Orca up close with E-Ko Rowi Kiwi at E-Ko little blue penguins South Island Saddleback on Blumine Dolphin Watching in Picton Dolphin Watching Bottlenose dolphin jumping Hectors Dolphin Pied Shag Wildlife Tour


    What to expect


    We’ll be searching for Dusky, Bottle-nose, Common, Orca and the rare Hector’s dolphins that frequent this unique area. Whether it’s watching a group quietly cruising along or marvelling at their high leaps, back-flips and somersaults during social bouts, dolphins are a magnificent sight! Our special Department of Conservation permit allows us to seek out and interact with all species of marine mammals that live in the Sounds. We’ll take you there and provide respectful interactions with these amazing creatures.

    Welcome to Motuara Island

    Motuara Island is 100% predator-free and is home to some rare species such as the yellow-crowned Parakeet and Saddleback. Explore the island on your own or go with our knowledgeable guide who will point out and describe the resident blue penguins, rare saddleback, melodic bellbirds, cheeky robins, native pigeons and yellow-crowned parakeets (kakariki). If it’s a clear day, you will also be able to spot the North Island in the distance. The view from the Cook Strait lookout is absolutely spectacular!

    Friendly Birds

    The birds on this predator-free island are fearless, plentiful and very vocal. It’s not unusual for you to be able to get very close to these amazing creatures – there’ll be plenty of photo opportunities. Our expert guides will be with you all the way – our team are passionate about the local environment and love to share its unique aspects with our small groups.

    Historical Significance

    Motuara Island was significant for Maori. At the southern tip of Motuara Island is smaller Hippa Island which was the site of a pre-European Maori Pa. The adjacent Ship Cove,  Meretoto, was where Maori first met pakeha on a sustained basis – our guides will show you exactly where. Motuara Island was the location where, in 1770, Captain Cook proclaimed British sovereignty over the South Island.

    Refreshments on the way home

    After returning to the boat, sit back and relax with a hot drink and cookies before making our way back to Picton and stopping to check out any extra species we discover.

    Tour Times ⏰

    • Briefing: 7.45 AM, 1:15 PM
    • Departure: 8.00 AM, 1:30 PM
    • Duration: 4 hours

    What to bring

    • Sunhat
    • Sunblock
    • Good walking shoes
    • Water
    • Raincoat

    Where are we?

    We are located conveniently on Picton’s main waterfront with car parking close by and only a 1-minute walk from the main street.

    Just look for the Dusky Dolphin outside our shop.

    Before your tour starts feel free to take a seat inside the shop or outside on our sun drenched deck and enjoy the stunning views.

    Customers can also get online with our free WiFi, and purchase a tea or coffee to enjoy on the deck.

    You will Never Miss your Ferry

    Our tour schedules are integrated with the Interislander – so there is no chance that you’ll miss your ferry.

    What people are saying about us

    “Quality Wildlife Tour”

    Trip Advisor – 5 STAR ***** – 23 May 2017 We were lucky enough to head out with e-Ko Tours recently on a perfect late autumn day with not a cloud in the sky. We’d considered carefully which cruise company to go with and were not disappointed… The boat was well appointed and comfortable with space for everyone to move around easily. Paul, the skipper, was friendly and fun to chat to and Tristram, our guide, was superbly knowledgeable about everything we saw during our 4 hour trip to Motuara Island and back. Also much appreciated were the thoughtful hands up and down from boat to jetty, myself being not the agilest. Little things that make a big difference. We saw a wealth of wildlife whilst on our trip – 2 species of dolphin, the Hector’s were absolutely delightful as they played right around the boat, rolling to look up at us! And fur seals, rare shags, petrels, gannets, moon jellyfish, and on the island – Saddlebacks, Black Robins, Bellbirds, Wax-eyes, Fantails, and Kakariki. I advise sitting quietly by the “bird bath” – water source where the birdlife comes to bathe and drink – for best viewing of birds. It was incredible to listen to the birdsong in the bush, something that is sadly a thing of the past in so many places. Thank goodness for predator-free sanctuaries such as this. It was a most memorable day and I thoroughly recommend E-Ko Tours.  

    “Great team of people”

    FACEBOOK – 5 Star ***** Sam Fox reviewed E-Ko Tours – May 22 · Great team of people – who all worked hard to make sure we enjoyed a fab day out. The boat is really comfortable and well set up, the commentary by Tristram was really well delivered and interesting, further enhancing our experience. We were lucky enough to see many rare bird species both at sea and on Motuara Island, plus NZ Fur Seals and both Hectors and Dusky Dolphins which was just amazing. Paul, the captain, went out of his way to find the Hectors Dolphins – which capped our day off beautifully! If you are looking for a quality wildlife experience these are your guys!  

    “Awesome tour!”

    FACEBOOK – 5 Star ***** Laura Keereweer reviewed E-Ko Tours – December 11, Awesome tour! Nice boat, great skipper, and guide. Both know a lot about the area and about the wildlife. Enthusiastic and fun! Spotted dolphins within the first 20 minutes and was a great experience! ? Thanks so much, guys, would definitely recommend you to all people visiting NZ!

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