top of page

Humpback Whales


(Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback Whales are often found in our waters around Aotearoa during their annual migrations. These incredible mammals like to sometimes put on a show! Follow along to learn all about the humpback whale and how you might spot one out in our ocean.

Humpback whales like to put on great displays and can often been seen breaching (jumping) out of the water. They are easy to identify by their very distinctive hump in front of a small dorsal fin. They also have extremely long pectoral fins (up to 1/3 of their body length!) and a broad fluke (tail).  The marks on a humpbacks tail are unique to each humpback - like fingerprints are to a human. You can use these marking to help identify individual humpback whales!





Throughout this page you'll find some fun activities and resources you can explore

at home with your whānau and friends.

Some of these resources have been put together with the help of our fantastic local organisations.

A huge thank you to those people who have helped put these together for us,

we appreciate your support!

Don't forget to share your activities with us, either tag us on social media

or email them to us at

Screenshot 2023-06-24 125105.png

Image Credit - Andrea Izzotti

Some tribes see whales as the descendants of Tangaroa, the god of the ocean. Whales possess a tapu (sacred) significance to Maori as both supernatural beings and as harbingers of personal change and spiritual growth.

When whales appeared on long journeys by waka across the Pacific ocean, they were seen as a sign that the iwi should settle in that place. They were also seen as benevolent guardians when they swam alongside the waka, guiding the way through tumultuous Pacific storms towards the safety of land.


Te Ao


 Art - Create a Whale's Tail

Create a Whale's Tail

Whale Tails/Flukes are all different and can be used to help identify individual whales. Have a go at creating your own unique pattern for your own whale's fluke. 

Creat your own whale tail .png
Click the image to
download the PDF!

Hamupēke / Humpback whales feed on mostly small organisms such as tiny crustaceans called krill and even small fish. Humpback's have baleen plates in their mouth, these are large rows of keratin plates similar to human hair or fingernails. They filter feed by taking huge gulps, then filtering the water out leaving only the yummy crustaceans and fish behind to swallow.

Click on this image to watch a video on how some humpback whales use bubble netting to feed!


& Diet


Image -Credit - Unknown

CRAFT - Hamupēke Snacks

Hamupēke Snacks

Have some fun making an upcycled humpback whale from a toilet roll!  Don't forget his baleen (instead of teeth) do you know what they made of in real life?  Give your Hamupēke a name and make him some tasty snacks.

This craft is to show how the large baleen plates in a humpback's mouth help to catch all their food!

Don't forget to share your Hamupēke with us we would love to know its name. 

Hamupeke & his snacks.png
Click the image to download the PDF sheet!

Image - Creator: Sean Steininger | Credit: Shutterstocki

Hamupēke live all over the world - there are 14 distinct populations worldwide. The humpback whales we often see around the shores of NZ are from the Oceania population.

Humpbacks are great migrators, traveling up to 16,000km each year! They like to feed in the colder Antarctic waters and migrate to warmer tropical waters for breeding and giving birth.  You can often spot them migrating past NZ in the cooler months of June and July as they head north.



Hamupēke GAMES 

Grab some of your friends or whānua and have a go at these fun Hamupēke games and activites.

How Baleen Works


This activity aims to demonstrate how baleen plates work and how whales uses them to eat.

Click on the image to download the instructions.


If you give this game a go with your class or some friends take a pic or video and share it with us!

Baleen Teeth game.png

How Long is a Hamupēke


This activity aims to demonstrate how large/long a humpback whale is. Get your friends and family together, line up and visualize the length of a Humpback whale!

Click on the image to download the instructions.


Image Credit - Unknown

Humpback whales give birth to live young, just like us humans. A baby whale is called a calf. 

Whale calves are born tail first, then the mother guides the calf to the water surface for it to take its first breath.  

They suckle on their mum's milk which is rich and thick. The mother squirts the milk into the calf's mouth. 

Female Humpbacks only produce a calf every 2-3 years. 



ACTIVITY - Test Your Knowledge

Test your knowledge - Parts of a Humpback Whale

Have a go at testing your knowledge see how many parts of the whale you can name.


Click on the image below to download the quiz and have a go.

See how many you can answer!

Name the whale parts.png
Click the image to download the quiz!
Click the Humpback to download the answers.

Every wounder how the Humpback whale stays warm while swimming in the freezing water down in Antarctica ??

Well they have blubber - a fatty substance below their skin that helps to keep them warm. 

Check out this neat video from SciShow Kids that demonsrates how blubber works. 

Have a go at it your self - Did the blubber keep your hand warm? Don't forget to send us in a photo of you testing this out, we would love to hear all about your experiment. 


Crazy Facts!

Other Hamupēke / Humpback Whale Resources 

Below you will find links to other Hamupēke resources, click the images to take you to the websites. Check them out!

The Sea Swallow and the Humpbackwhale 

by Catherine Barr

Screenshot 2023-06-19 111619.png

The Whale Rider

by Witi Ihimarea

Department of Conservation

For more Humpback whale information click the image 

Screenshot 2023-06-19 111822.png

NOAA Fisheries

For more Humpback information click the image 


Whale and Dolphin Conservation 

Become a whale guardian with WDC, check out their fun online digital progamme for kids. 


DOC  - Toyota Kiwi Guardian Activity

Help look after the humpback whales

becoming a water champion!


Although the Toyota Kiwi Guardian programme has now finished and you can no longer claim the medals.

The activates are still a fantastic way for your tamariki to help support our conservation and native species.  


Below is a link to the "Water Champion" activity!

Help to clean up a water way or coastline near you. Then take action to help protect it.  

Click the image to download a PDF Instruction sheet to learn how to become a Water Champion!

Image Credit - Envirohistory NZ

Historically, the biggest threat to our Humpback whales has been whaling, with this intensifying in the late 18th century up until 1965.  Humpbacks were hunted in NZ waters, with hunters taking advantage of the migration seasons. Between 1911 and 1965, 4500 whales (mostly humpbacks) were caught in the Tory Channel alone. In 1965 the whaling industry collapsed with the whales had been hunted close to extinction.

Since then, NZ has made large efforts to help protect our whales and help bring the numbers back. Whaling is now illegal in NZ waters, but there are still threats: plastic pollution and large boat strike are some of the biggest threats to our humpback whales today. 

Check out the next Hamupēke Fact to find out how you can help!




What YOU can do!

So... How can you help protect our whales? Glad you asked!


Firstly, help to reduce our plastic waste. Plastic can end up in our oceans and harm not only our whales but other marine species. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse and Rot where possible! 

Keep an eye out for a beach cleanup near you and lend a helping hand.


Image Credit - Envirohub Beach Clean Up event 


Image Credit - Department of Conservation NZ

Act safely on the water around Humpacks

When out on a boat there are ways you can safely observe any marine life you come across, especially whales and other marine mammals.

Click HERE to learn how you can safely share our coast lines with our beautiful taonga of the ocean. 

Visit a Hamupēke - Humpback Whale

Southern Humpbacks migrate past NZ on their way to the warmer waters of the Pacific to breed. One hot-spot to see them as they migrate is in Kaikōura.

You can hop on a whale watch tour in hopes of seeing one from the water, or find a high vantage point somewhere along the coast and try your luck at spotting!

Remember, anywhere in the world that you join a tour or wildlife experience, make sure you do your research and ensure the experience is ethical and have the animal's best interests in mind!


KORI's annual Great Kaikoura Whale Count

Each winter, around June/July, the Kaikōura Ocean Research Institute holds an annual whale count, where they count as many whales migrating past Kaikōura as they can, with a focus on the humpbacks. You can even volunteer to head along and help them out and be a part of the action!

Click on the KORI logo above to go to their website and find out more.


Sadly in 2023 they did not receive the funding needed to carry out the whale coun, but you can still head along yourself and have a go at spotting some whales from the shore. A good spot to take your binoculars and try your hand at spotting whales is from the top of Kaikōura peninsular track. 

Screenshot 2023-06-28 130926.png

Whale Blow Identification 


Have a go at identifying some whale's from the shore - different whales have unique blows when they come to the surface for air.

This chart will show you how to identify what whale you have spotted from their blow or other distinctive features - e.g. humpback whales have a distinctive round shape to their blow.

Click on the image to the right to download the instructions from DOC.

Hamupēke / Humpback Whale Gallery 
Images from some of our Humpback Whale events

2023 Humpback Whale Day

bottom of page