A few residents of Tauranga came up close and got acquainted with some impressive marine life. Video / Garrick Armstrong, Nathan Lewis, @parallaxerror_

Close-up coastal encounters with orcas and sharks left two Tauranga men feeling lucky.

Nathan Lewis was jet skiing with his sons aged 7 and 14 on Saturday when an orca appeared near them.

The next minute, a group of about 10 were swimming near them in what he described as “a once in a lifetime experience.”

“We kind of drifted with them… it was pretty awesome,” he said, lucky to be able to film it.

“It was like I relived my childhood in the movie Free Willy,” he said.

“I was pretty excited… I didn’t really know what to do other than hang out.”

He said that although his younger one was a little nervous, it was a special time for them all.

“It’s like National Geographic stuff… you pay for it, and then you’re still not sure if you see it.”

He then ran to the shore to tell his wife who then took their daughter to see them as well.

“They saw them too, and a few of our neighbors also went out on jetski. It was a full day event.”

Lewis said he had seen a few dolphins in the area, but had never encountered a killer whale here.

The killer whale was heading towards Bowentown, he said.

Sunday, Dave McClelland had the chance to catch a group of orcas – including a calf – swimming near the rocks at the foot of Mauao (Le Mont).

McClelland is relatively new to the area and had heard of the killer whale and used to take his drone on walks up to Mauao, just in case they were there.

For a while – nothing – and he stopped bringing it, but decided to bring it on Sunday.

“A lady came running up to me and said, do you have a drone? The whales go up the port.

McClelland said it was a mad scramble to sort out the gear, but the view was “pretty cool” with the orcas closing in on the rocks, including a “tiny one”.

He saw five in total and the drone dragged them into the sea where it captured them playing in the water and, for a while, chasing a blue penguin.

He had never seen anything like it before.

Kitesurfer Garrick Armstrong said it was a “blessing” and he felt “really lucky” to see two bronze whale sharks in their natural habitat two weeks ago near Tay St.

He went kitesurfing twice a week and said he was expected to see them as the water was warmer and the small fish were getting closer to shore.

“It was pretty cool to finally see one.”

Drone photo of Ocra near Tauranga. Photo / @parallaxerror_
Drone photo of Ocra near Tauranga. Photo / @parallaxerror_

Armstrong said he and a friend saw one in the knee deep shallows and another later that day; one was around 1.5m and the other around 2m, he said.

“You kind of feel more secure on your board, but you don’t want to go wrong and lose your board,” he said with a laugh.

“We all gave him space so he could just go and do his job. He wasn’t swimming aggressively, he wasn’t trying to swim fast or whatever, he was just sailing along the river. rating.”

He had only seen a bronze whaler once before, last year around the same time, and he had many friends who had seen smaller sharks along the coast.

That same day he saw one of the sharks swimming between the people and the shore between the flags which was spotted by one of the swimmers and everyone came out.

“They just don’t care about us,” he said.

Armstrong admitted he was scared of sharks, but after viewing artist Malibu’s drone footage of sharks, and seeing that they didn’t bother humans, it allayed his concerns.

“I feel really thankful that we have oceans that contain wildlife… I felt really lucky to have this cool moment.”

He said the more he looked at it, the more he realized how smart sharks were. He thought sharks in general were poorly studied and had been given a wrong reputation in the movie Jaws.

Bullfighting man Nathan Lewis and his sons got closer to the killer whale. Photo / Supplied
Bullfighting man Nathan Lewis and his sons got closer to the killer whale. Photo / Supplied

Tauranga Conservation Department Senior Biodiversity Ranger Brad Angus said a few reports of groups of killer whales in the area were made during the holiday period, including three years ago. days in the Ōmokoroa region.

He said it’s not uncommon to see killer whales along the coast and they swim in and around ports from time to time.

“Orcas are known to be curious animals and often approach ships,” he said.

It could be a known pod, but without photographs or video footage of the pod, they couldn’t identify it. He said that although they generally prefer cooler waters, orcas can travel long distances, so there could be a number of known pods.

It is an offense to swim within 100 m of a killer whale or any species of whale under the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations 1992 with a fine of $ 10,000.

A whale includes baleen whales, sperm whales, beaked whales, orcas (orcas) and pilot whales.

In addition to swimming, harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing marine mammals is an offense. Anyone charged with this faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison or a fine of up to $ 250,000.

Aircraft should also maintain a safety distance of at least 150m from the killer whale and should not fly directly overhead.

Killer whales sightings can be reported by calling 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or by filling out an online form that helps to learn more about distribution and movements in New Zealand.

Useful information to record includes:

• Species / description
• Site
• Number of individuals
• Estimated sizes
• What they seemed to be doing
• Direction in which they were heading.

Rules for boating near orca:

• Do not swim within 100m of a killer whale / killer whale.
• Your ship should not be within 50m of an orca.
• There should be no more than three vessels within 300m of a marine mammal, additional vessels can monitor within 300m.
• Your boat should approach the killer whale from behind and from the side.
• Do not circle them, obstruct their path, or cut through a group.
• Operate your boat slowly and quietly at “no wake” speed within 300 m of a killer whale.
• Avoid sudden noises that could frighten animals.

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