Ever wanted to see the tail of a whale? Or see sea spray spouting from its blowhole? Now could be your chance.
But advocates have warned animal admirers to keep their distance from the "precious and endangered" species.
This time of year is the peak for sightings of the southern hemisphere humpback whale as they migrate along the New Zealand coastline headed for warmer tropical waters.
Bay of Plenty residents are most likely to see species like Bryde's whales, blue whales and orca.
To make the most of this, an annual cetacean census is held over two days.
This weekend will be the third Countrywide Whale and Dolphin Count and co-ordinator Christine Rose said it was a chance to see the "incredible diversity" around the country's coastline.
Since populations were hit hard in the days of whaling, she said there was anecdotal evidence of humpback and southern right whale numbers increasing.
She said citizen science was important for collecting data that would contribute to more structured scientific research. The census had both an education and advocacy role.
Whale and dolphin watchers in past censuses were able to see these species as well as bottlenose, common and hectors dolphin and orca.
"It's an exciting time and very rewarding."
In the Bay of Plenty she said orca, hectors dolphin and humpback whales were often seen at this time of year.
She said land-based watching was a "rich experience" and left precious and endangered marine mammals to do their thing undisturbed.
All cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and marine mammals (seals and sea lions) will be counted, including data on their species, number, location, and activity.
The survey will be run by local spotters, co-ordinated nationally through the Cetacean Spotting NZ Facebook page.
Bay of Plenty-based marine mammal permit holder and educator Nathan Pettigrew advocated for good observation behaviours.
He said there had been instances where people wanted to get as close as they could to wildlife.
All seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and it is an offence to harass, disturb, injure or kill marine mammals.
Pettigrew said boaties needed to stay at least 50m away from whales.
He encouraged people to get involved with the census.
"It's important because people see marine life but it's not recorded."
While the New Zealand census was only in its third year, Australian groups had been counting cetaceans for 30 years.
He said in that time numbers had grown from 300 whales counted to about 40,000.
The Department of Conservation also advised people to keep away from wildlife, particularly New Zealand fur seals/kekeno as they came ashore for winter.
People had been reporting seals in unusual areas.
Marine science adviser Laura Boren said despite it happening every winter, it took people by surprise.
"It's exciting because it really indicates that fur seals are doing well, and this time of year provides for some unique and special encounters with them."
Between May and September young seals, and male seals of any age, can be spotted as they leave their breeding colonies to explore and rest. This includes newly weaned pups finding their way in the world.
Boren said people may feel concerned seeing young pups alone, or seals regurgitating, sneezing, coughing, or crying. But she said this was all normal behaviour.
"Call the DoC hotline only if they are in immediate danger, like relaxing on a road, severely injured, or tangled in debris."
How to take part
Find a good viewing point, list it on the document on the Cetacean Spotting FB page.
Others may join or follow you at the same site, or so you can join an established team, ideally so as many sites are covered for as long as possible to get as thorough a snapshot as possible.