Buzzing after close orca encounter

A man had the experience of a lifetime when he found himself in Pelorus Sound swimming with orcas.

Will Gerard was visiting family in Pelorus Sound for Christmas and decided to take a swim while out on a fishing trip.

While swimming he spotted what he thought were signs of dolphins and had his family pass him his waterproof camera.

"I've always loved filming dolphins following our boat when we're out fishing, but have always wanted to swim with them. When I saw the dorsal fins and realised it was an orca I was so excited I didn't have time to be afraid and get out the water," he said.

"I know you are not supposed to swim with them, but it just happened so quickly and I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me," Gerard said.

The orcas didn't seem bothered by his presence so he swam slowly after them and another large orca approached him.

"I didn't expect that, there was a calf with the pod and I think the big male came to make sure they were safe."

Associate professor of zoology at the University of Otago Liz Slooten said that it was normal to see pods of orcas at this time of year. "Orcas have a regular beat they follow and could spend up to months in an area before moving further along the coast on their annual root.

"New Zealand orcas are resident to New Zealand and spend their year travelling up and down the coast, so they will most likely be back around the same time next year." 

The Marlborough Express