Face to face with an orca

HANNAH MCKEE
Last updated 17:42 03/06/2014

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A close encounter with an animal that has the word ''killer'' in its name is something most people would avoid, but not Craig Hipson. 

While training Dive Kapiti divers with Ben Knight on Monday afternoon, the group came across a pod of about six orca whales near Kapiti Island. 

After taking a few photos, Hipson decided to get in the water.

''I thought I'd give it a go. From what I think I know about them, they're quite curious and it was definitely checking me out. I didn't feel threatened by it and I think I would do it again if I had the chance.'' 

Hispson says he was hardly phased by the whale's fierce reputation. 

''It was okay for the most part, at one point it opened its mouth and I put my feet up, I saw straight down its throat. But then it just sort of rolled over and I rubbed its belly.'' 

While wildlife spotting is a common occurrence for the divers, Hispson said dolphins and whales generally gave the boat a wide birth.

Knight said his dive partner was in the water with the animal for about 15 minutes.

''I said to him 'Well, if you want to get in, Craig, here's your chance'. It was a big fish, I think it was the boss, and I don't know if he was curious or was trying to say 'stay away', but it came and had a good look at us and circled him at least half a dozen times. 

"We didn't want him to become whale food so thought after a while he better get out.

''It's one of those things,'' Knight says. ''It's a big fish and you take your chances if you want to have an encounter, I wonder if he's cleaned his wetsuit yet...''

See the video here.

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- The Dominion Post

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