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    Hector's Dolphin in the Queen Charlotte Sound
    Latest Article

    Photo of the Week March 31st

    E-Ko News
    Author: E-Ko Tours
    March 31, 2018

Wildlife Island Sanctuary and Dolphin Cruise (Motuara Island)

Wild Life and Dolphin Cruise

Enjoy our intimate 4-hour wildlife and Dolphin cruise in the majestic Marlborough Sounds with the award-winning local wildlife experts, departing at 13:30 daily.


We take you where the wildlife is!


Embark on a fully guided wildlife and dolphin cruise like no other. Travel through Marlborough's Queen Charlotte Sound to unique Wildlife Sanctuary Islands, encountering a huge variety of rare, wonderful and interesting species along the way. 


Our passionate 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


Motuara Island is predator-free and is home to some rare species such as the yellow-crowned parakeet and Saddleback.


Cruise the clear, calm waters of the Marlborough Sounds on a scenic journey to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, and relax in the knowledge that you'll be with the only NZ operator that guarantees you will not get seasick.


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, 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.


You'll also enjoy a free sample of Yealands award-winning local wine and Sealord's local mussels. Yes - Wine and Seafood on the way home! Enjoy :-) 


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 may also be able to spot the North Island in the distance.


About Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary

The birds on this predator-free island are fearless, plentiful and very vocal. The view from the Cook Strait lookout is absolutely spectacular! 


It's not unusual for you to be able to get very close to these amazing creatures - there'll be plenty of photo opportunities.


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 M?ori p?.


The adjacent Ship Cove 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. (via Doc


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


We are located conveniently on Picton's main W\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.


Board our purpose built vessels at our floating wharf for your small group experience before embarking the ultimate cruise through the scenic and sheltered waters of the southern Queen Charlotte Sound.




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 to all.

FACEBOOK - 5 Star *****

Sam Fox reviewed E-Ko Tours — 5 star
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!


FACEBOOK - 5 Star *****

Laura Keereweer reviewed E-Ko Tours — 5 star

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!


What you can see


Sea Birds

  • Little Blue Penguins

  • King Shags

  • Reef Heron

  • Variable Oyster Catcher

  • Fluttering Shearwaters

  • Artic and Pomerine Skua 

  • White Fronted Tern

  • Spotted Shag

  • Pied Shag

  • Little Black Shag

  • Australasian Gannets


Marine Mammals

  • New Zealand Fur Seals

  • Hectors Dolphins

  • Bottlenose Dolphins

  • Common Dolphins

  • Dusky Dolphins

  • Orca


Land Birds

  • Fantail

  • Grey Warbler

  • Tui

  • Bellbird

  • New Zealand Wood Pigeon

  • South Island Robin

  • Rowi Kiwi

  • Yellow Fronted Kakariki

  • South Island Saddleback

  • Nesting Penguins 


Daily departures at 13:30 (13:15 check-in).


Commonly seen on this tour

King Shag

King Shag

(Leucocarbo carunculatus)

The King Shag is one of the world's rarest sea birds with a global population of only ~830. They are endemic to the Marlborough Sounds and are the largest of the Cormorant species that inhabit the region. 

Hector's Dolphin

Hector's Dolphin

(Cephalorhynchus hectori)

The Hector's dolphin is one of the world's smallest cetaceans at approximately 1.4m in length. It is only found in New Zealand and is our only endemic cetacean. It can be found in the north and south islands and has an estimated population of around 13, 000 individuals.

Departure Information

  • Duration

    4-5 hours
  • Briefing Time

    Viewing Only - 30 Minutes before tour departure


Wellington Street Picton
View Map View Map


  • Dolphins (90% encounter rate)
  • Motuara Bird Sanctuary Island
  • Degree qualified guides
  • Learn about the Marlborough Sounds
More Info

Tour Gallery

Conservation Initiatives

Here at E-Ko Tours we are proud to follow the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978 and the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations 1992. These ensure the marine mammals of New Zealand are protected and that their conservation is a top priority. Our interactions with the marine mammals of the Marlborough Sounds adhere to all regulations and our conservation focused tours are designed to educate and raise awareness about conservation in the Marlborough Sounds.