Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Quick-thinking cray diver films rare orca encounter

A man filming his diving expedition in Northland caught more than crayfish when he came face to face with a pod of orcas.

Aucklander Mike Coughlan was filming a diving trip off Matai Bay on the Karikari Peninsula before Christmas with a friend, and as he resurfaced found himself up close and personal with an 8m orca and her 1.5m calf.

"I was coming back to the boat after diving for crays and was behind the boat when the mother and calf came towards me," he told the Herald.

The whale dwarfed the 5.6m speedboat he was diving from, he said.

"I think they were curious. I didn't really have time to be scared or intimidated, they were just suddenly there."

Mr Coughlan quickly jumped back on to the boat.

"The mother and calf came right up, about half a metre, to the boat ...

I had my GoPro [camera] on a stick so I dropped it into the water and filmed them coming over."

He counted six whales in the pod, and said they swam from where the boat was, about 300m from shore, into Matai Bay.

"They were I would say maybe 15m from shore when they were in the bay, that's how close they were.

"They were thrashing around in the shallows.

"We saw them push an eagle ray up on to a rock, it went up out of the water and as it fell back down into the water they were eating it."

Crowds of campers gathered on the beach to watch the display, he said.

Mr Coughlan was staying with his partner Ani and their daughters Jessica, 5, and Shelley, 3, at the Matai Bay campsite over Christmas.

- NZ Herald

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