Two humpback whales which delighted boaties with a spectacular display in Whangarei Harbour may be first-time visitors to the area - and one has been attacked by orca, Northland whale and orca expert Ingrid Visser says.

The two whales, estimated to be over 10m long, put on a spectacular display in the harbour on Saturday, rolling in the water, slapping their fins on the surface, breaching and blowing from their blowholes.

Aaron Dyer was on his boat about 9am on Saturday when he saw the two whales near NorthPort at Marsden Point and captured some great video footage of the pair.

After examining the footage and some photos sent in by Kent Remihana, Dr Visser said the images had been checked with others of humpbacks visiting the harbour in the past and there was not a match.

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"They are not in the Whangarei Harbour humpback whale ID catalogue - so we can't be sure they are newcomers, but they are certainly new to us researchers," Dr Visser said.

"They are not matches to any of the humpbacks that I've photographed, but that is cool in itself. They may have been in there before and we didn't know about it."

She said the closest of the whales in Mr Remihana's photo above clearly has some bite marks on its dorsal fin that are from orca and the one away from the camera has open cookie-cutter shark bites.

These humpback whales which visited Whangarei Harbour on Saturday may be newcomers to waters off Whangarei, orca and whale expert Ingrid Visser says. Photo / Kent Remihana
These humpback whales which visited Whangarei Harbour on Saturday may be newcomers to waters off Whangarei, orca and whale expert Ingrid Visser says. Photo / Kent Remihana

"There are three ways of telling individual humpbacks. One is the shape of their dorsal fin, another is the scars that are usually caused by cookie-cutter sharks, and also by the pigmentation on their under-flutes."

Dr Visser said watching whales could be an awesome experience but there are strict rules, including keeping at least 50m away and not being allowed to swim with them.

Whale sightings can be reported to Dr Visser on 0800 SEE ORCA.

Whale watching rules:

• Ensure that you travel no faster than idle or "no wake" speed within 300m of any marine mammal.
• Approach whales and dolphins from behind and to the side.
• Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group.
• Keep at least 50m from whales (or 200m from any large whale mother and calf or calves).
• Swimming with whales is not permitted.
• Anyone charged with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal faces a maximum two years' imprisonment or a maximum fine of $250,000.