How much does it cost?
Costs start at $65 for children and $150 for adults for a full day’s activity. Extra rates are charged for transportation with options from Rotorua and Mt Maunganui. We offer a 10% group discount for groups of 10 or more and special educational rates are also available. For value for money, the BEST DAY EVER is hard to beat.
Does the BEST DAY EVER Island and Wildlife cruise depart every day?
The Bay Explorer operates 7 days a week – we go out everyday except for Christmas Day. Bookings are essential and can be made directly from this website..
Do we need to book in advance?
Yes. Bookings are essential to secure your trip – if you’re visiting the region, we recommend you book on your first available day in the Bay, so that if the trip is postponed due to operational circumstances, you may (subject to availability) have the option of an alternate day.
Where does the boat leave from?
The boat departs from the Strand Wharf in Tauranga City. (you can find us across the road from the Starbucks cafe).
What do we need to bring for the cruise?
The following items are recommended:
- A water/drink bottle
- A warm jacket (bring an extra layer or two so you can layer up or layer down according to the weather)
- Eftpos card or cash (we have a licenced bar onboard, plus a range of snacks)
- Your own lunch (either a packed lunch or bring food for cooking on our free communal onboard BBQ)
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Camera (check that your camera is charged; we do have a 230v power charger on board as a back-up)
- Binoculars if you have them (we have a pair on board but if you have your own please bring them).
- Swimming gear is optional (and recommended) in summer
- Wetsuits and snorkelling gear if you are proficient
Note that extra items can be left on the boat while you participate in our water sports.
What is included?
- Our 6-8 hour marine experience includes …cruising on our comfortable vessel BAY EXPLORER.
- Department of Conservation permit: We have a government permit to view dolphins whales and seals, we will spend time with these mammals whenever we see them.
- The shared knowledge and passion of our professional and experienced captain and BEST DAY EVER crew and activity guides.
- Onboard books and resources
- Paddle Boards and Kayaks
- Use of our onboard communal BBQ
Do you have educational material on board?
Read our great books and folio about animals, geography, history, and the cultures past and present. We have compiled a selection of material from various publications pertaining to Marine Mammals in NZ and worldwide. This is available to you in open book form, laminated, a living document updated and edited regularly.
Current books include:
- WONDERS OF THE SEA: THE PROTECTION OF NEW ZEALAND’S MARINE
- MAMMALS, by Kate Mulcahy & Raewyn Peart.
- DOLPHINS OF AOTEAROA. LIVING WITH NZ DOLPHINS, by RaewynPeart
Return transfers from your Rotorua accommodation (Rotorua pickups only)
When do we check in?
Check-in is from 7:30am to 7:45am at the Strand Wharf in Tauranga’s CBD, just opposite Starbucks on The Strand.
What time is departure?
Departure is at 8:00am (sharp). Please be prompt as a courtesy to your crew and your fellow passengers.
It is very important that you provide contact details where we can get hold of you.
What time does the boat get back to Tauranga?
From departure at 8:00am our cruise normally takes between 6 and 8 hours. Variations are due to the seasonal variations between summer and winter, day light saving, clients commitment to time, sea conditions, weather, time with dolphins or other marine life we encounter.
How big is the boat?
Bay Explorer is 18.3 metres (65ft) single hull vessel. The boat is very stable in all sea conditions and designed for your safety and comfort.
Do you have toilets on board?
Yes. There are two fully-flushing household toilets on board. Male and female toilets
Can we go swimming at the island?
During the summer, if conditions permit, there will be a chance for a swim out at the island. You are welcome to bring your swimming gear on board and jump in for a dip when we anchor the boat.
Can we go swimming with dolphins?
We have a legal permitted concession with the Department of Conservation to interact with marine mammals and to swim with dolphins (the common dolphin), however swimming with dolphins is not the focus of the cruise and instead, we encourage watching marine wildlife from the boat. It’s awesome. Dolphin watching and other wildlife interactions from our boat is an amazing experience, made better if the animals are not interrupted. We have found that our massive outdoor cruise deck is ideal for viewing dolphins and all wildlife.
Of note, any swimming with wild common dolphins is difficult to execute and largely constrained by legalities. By LAW NO SWIMMING with dolphins is allowed if there is the presence of juveniles (under the Marine Mammal Protection Act). However these young animals are adorable to watch and witness from the comfort of the boat..
NOTE: NO commercial operator can offer swimming with dolphins that have juveniles present in the pod, and juveniles are often present over summer months. You must be made legally aware of this if booking with other operators.
How do you find marine mammals?
With over 20 years experience and research undertaken, our crew are experienced and knowledgeable. Finding marine mammals in the Bay of Plenty is a study of the food chain, and requires an understanding of tidal flows and current movements.
Most importantly, finding wildlife relies on a keen eye and an ability to keep focused on the water; it requires concentration as there is nothing really to focus on the sea and 360° viewing with an infinity of water, but a trained eye can pick up the slightest movement up to a 2km away. Finding the local seabirds and schooling fish can be the gateway to finding dolphins on our safari. It requires an understanding of tidal flows and current movements to find fish and birds. Often you must rely on your own instinct from many encounters in past days. Sometimes we receive information from other vessels out in the Bay who have spotted animals on their own travels.
What research do you conduct?
We work with the Department of Conservation, collecting data with every encounter about the marine mammals, their environment and their behaviors. Our business also enables research to be carried out for Masters and PhD studies, supporting students at Toi Ohomai and the University of Waikato in their Marine Studies.
Are marine mammals endangered?
Marine mammals face many outside threats, ranging from commercial whaling to captivity, ship strikes and pollution. Fortunately in New Zealand there is a very strong advocacy to protect these animals. Legislation has been established to help the protection of species and habitat. There are many ways to reduce impact on these animals with the right understanding of their biology and behaviour. All crew members of the Bay Explorers are marine enthusiasts and conservationists.
Can groups go on the tour?
Yes, the Bay Explorer is great for photographic groups, social groups, business groups and conferences etc. It is an ideal activity for a whole day outing. We offer a 10% group discount for groups of teh or more. Special educational rates are also available during our low season. Please contact us for more information.
Is there a maximum age limit or physical ability requirement?
The cruise does not call for a certain amount of physical ability – you can simply sit back and relax and enjoy all that you can see.
(please inform crew however if you have any special medical or physical needs). Please note that the optional water sport activities will require you to enter the water via an inflatable craft. Our preferred method involves stepping from the vessel onto an inflatable boat and then onto a standup paddle board SUP or onto a kayak. To get back on board, you will need to climb up a ladder up the side of the boat. However – as mentioned – if you require a more passive experience simply stay onboard and relax and observe the beautiful bay, have lunch or snacks and a drink from the licenced bar.
Does this cruise suit everyone?
Yes everyone! We have a broad base of clientele who are interested in a full day experience; they tend to appreciate all that is the , ocean, not just the wildlife encounters. Passengers can choose and participate in any of the water activities we offer, but this is completely optional, so you can define your BEST DAY EVER your way.
Does the vessel accommodate wheelchairs?
Our vessel is not wheelchair friendly in its design but we can accommodate wheelchairs if we know in advance. Please advise us at point of booking (also inform crew if you have any other special medical or physical needs)
The Bay Explorer
See why our day cruise is called the BEST DAY EVER. Bay Explorer are local tour specialists who are passionate about all that our region has to offer. We are proudly Kiwi owned and operated.