Paddling with the pod

CARALISE TRAYES
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014
Andrea Hegan, Orca
Craig Hegan

POD PADDLE: Waitoki’s Andrea Hegan got the experience of a lifetime on Sunday stand up paddleboarding with orca near Kawau Island.

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Andrea Hegan wasn't the only one eating breakfast in Bon Accord Harbour near Kawau Island.

The Waitoki resident and her family were enjoying a meal on their boat on Sunday when they were joined by a pod of orca feeding on stingrays.

"I was at the back of the boat with my daughter Alexandra for breakfast when she yelled out ‘Mum, I can see an orca'. I thought she was seeing things, but sure enough a pod came right into the bay we were in."

Within seconds Andrea had jumped on her stand-up paddleboard and neared the pod.

"I didn't even hesitate when I saw them. When I first approached, an orca went right under my board. My legs were shaking a bit."

The big dolphins were feeding on stingray near the shoreline and rocks.

Andrea's husband Craig, son Will, father Brian Simmons and daughter Alexandra boarded a dinghy and joined the action.

"The orca followed the dinghy around. At one point all of the orca dove down in the water and Alexandra was leaning over the dinghy's edge when one popped up right beside her. She gave a little scream and it blew water in her face."

The experience was a dream come true for Alexandra, 7, who has always told her mum she wanted to see orca.

"Alexandra shouted out to me ‘Mum, my wish has come true' when we were on the water. I had told her that she was going to have to see a wild orca because I wasn't going to show her one in captivity."

The pod included a large orca, a medium sized one and two smaller ones.

"There was a huge orca that stayed out deeper.

"We didn't see him till a bit later - his dorsal fin was about the size of a one-storey house on the horizon."

Andrea says the pod stayed for more than two hours.

"They were very friendly and cruisey, they seemed relaxed.

"I could see them feeding underwater, it was incredible.

"At times it looked like two orca were kissing but they were actually sharing a stingray one had caught."

Just a fortnight earlier Andrea had been paddleboarding off Orewa when she met a pod of dolphins.

She spent an hour and a half with them swimming alongside her board.

NO HARASSING

It is an offence to harass any marine mammal and boats should not travel faster than idle within 300 metres of any marine mammal.

As large dolphins, it is not an offence to swim with orca except if they have very young calves.

While there have been no attacks on people by orca in the wild, swimming with them is not recommended. 

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