A group of kayakers had a close encounter with a pod of bottlenose dolphins in Tauranga Harbour on Sunday.

Estelle Leyshon said six paddlers from the Yakkity Yak Kayakers club had stopped on shore for lunch when they saw fins in the water.

They paddled out to see what was going on.

"The dolphins swam up the harbour towards us and milled around us, encircling us. They were obviously corralling fish. There was about 15 in the pod."

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The delighted kayakers watched as the dolphins dived deep and leaped out of the water chasing their prey.

In a video posted to the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page, a kayaker gets a fright as a dolphin pops up next to the vessel and ducks under it. Another watches as a dolphin leaps into the air metres from the kayak.

"One of the youngsters was leaping out of the water metres in the air," Leyshon said.

"It was just pot luck; we were just in the right place at the right time.

"I've been paddling six years and have never seen them from my kayak before."

Local marine life kayaker Nathan Pettigrew confirmed they were bottlenose dolphins. He said a pod had been spotted in the harbour recently after several years' absence.

He saw them a week or so ago and was interested to see that it looked as if they had stayed around.

He asked the Bay of Plenty Times not to publish the specific location where the dolphins were seen, so as not to encourage people to seek them out.