Paddle boarder's close encounter with curious orca
Tuesday 19 May 2015 3:34 p.m.
A Coromandel man's Monday morning paddle turned into a close encounter with a curious giant of the deep – and he caught it all on camera.
Luke Reilly, owner of Luke's Kitchen in Kuaotunu, north of Whitianga, was stand-up paddle boarding about 200m offshore about 9:30am yesterday when an orca "popped up" next to him.
The killer whale checked him out for about 5 minutes and even had a nibble on his board, Mr Reilly said.
"Someone said there's some orcas down the beach so I chucked the GoPro in my pocket because I had it surfing," the 27-year-old said.
"I grabbed it thinking something might happen. I didn't think I'd get anything."
Mr Reilly paddled out and said a couple of orcas were diving for stingrays under him.
"Then this one bee-lined it for me.
"He popped up about 10cm away from the back of my board.
"I was a bit nervous thinking, 'what's this guy going to do?'"
Mr Reilly said the whale rolled on its side one way, then the other, and appeared to be checking him out.
"Then he slowly crept up and grabbed the back of my board and I yelled, 'What are you doing!'"
Despite being a "little bit freaked out" Mr Reilly thought the animal was just inquisitive.
He had a similar encounter around this time last year with an orca and its calf, but they didn't get as close.
Co-founder of Whale Rescue.Org Floppy Halliday said it wasn't unusual to see orcas in coastal waters all around New Zealand.
"It's just being in the right place at the right time to notice that they're there," she said.
Orcas were naturally inquisitive, Halliday said.
"There’s no doubt they’re curious, they will spend a lot of time checking you out."