Orcas (aka Killer Whales) visit Whakatete Bay, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

orca (killer whale) visits Firth of Thames, New Zealand

My first (ever) spotting of an orca

Our neighbor Graham called me up this afternoon and said, “The orcas are here.” At first, I did not quite understand what he was saying. The only times he’d ever called up here previously was to tell us that our water system was offline. (I am usually the one who goes up the hill to clean out the filter for the water system that provides six or seven houses, including ours.) Then Graham said, “Bring your car, ’cause they’re goin’ down the coast.”

So, I grabbed my camera and the car and drove north along the highway. There were several other cars pulled over on the side, gazing out to the ocean. That gave me a hint as to which direction to look.  I’d never seen an orca, other than on movies, and so I didn’t really know what to expect.

killer whale (aka orca) off the coast of Whakatete Bay, New ZealandI pulled over at the big point just north of Whakatete Bay (the bay where our house is) and gazed in the direction everyone else was looking. After awhile, I saw a fin stick up out of the water about 300 metres offshore. This was the first time I have ever seen an orca (or any whale).

I clicked the camera, only to see that the orca came even further out of the water just after I took the shot.  Not to worry, though, as during the next forty minutes, as I followed the orcas north, I got a few more photographs. The problem is that our camera is getting old, and when it’s at full zoom, the pictures are blurry. That, plus our zoom is not all that great anyway.  (We’re considering buying a new camera.)

When our neighbor Graham told me a couple weeks ago that orcas visit the Firth of Thames (on which Whakatete Bay is situated), I asked if meant “whales”, and he said, “Yes.” Andrew later told me that the orca is actually a large dolphin, not a whale.  Still, people refer to the orca as a “killer whale” or an “orca whale”,  so I was not completely wrong. Wikipedia says that the orca is a “toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family.” This is the critter that became famous years ago in the movie “Free Willy“.

Graham says, and another lady up the coast confirmed, that orcas visit our area fairly frequently.  Graham says they used to come up just about once a year, usually in spring, but now they’re coming more frequently. The orcas eat the stingrays which are common in our Firth of Thames.


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