Seeing one or two orca in the wild in your lifetime is pretty special, but how about seeing 30?
Kaikoura surf instructor Dave Lyons spends a lot of time out on the water around Kaikoura but even he could barely believe his eyes when he saw the numbers out there last week.
Lyons’ employee had always wanted to see orca so when they got word of a sighting off the coast he immediately grabbed her and her brother and set off on a jet ski to find them.
“She had wanted to see them all her life, and what an awesome experience, there were just so many.”
Lyons said there would have been about 30 orca spread out over about 3km, having travelled from Jimmy Armers beach to New World and beyond to hang out alongside them.
He counted five different groups so it was difficult to give an exact count, he said.
“We followed them about 15km off-shore towards Mangamaunu.
“There was the mum one side, and the dad on the other. We never got close to him but he was huge – his fin was enormous.
“All the pups were playing, it was just so amazing.”
Lyons said they noticed the pod would dive down for between two and three minutes, then come up to the surface where they would breach three to five times and then go back down again.
At one point the orca formed a huge circle of bubbles, like a feeding frenzy, before taking off to play again.
Some were even spinning around in the jet unit right off the back of the jetski, playing in the bubbles, Lyons said.
“It was very cool that they actually came up to see us, definitely a once in a lifetime experience.”
A video uploaded to Facebook by Lyons had almost 13,000 views in five days.
Although orca are not an uncommon sight along the Kaikoura coast, according to the Orca Research Trust there are fewer than 200 individuals in New Zealand waters.