Some people get candles for their birthday but one four-year-old got five orca instead.

The pod of orca, also known as killer whales, made for a memorable birthday experience for four-year old Charlie Simpson-Powell on Sunday.

Simpson-Powell and her family were treated to a cruise on the Bay Explorer as part of her fourth birthday.

Charlie Simpson-Powell, 4, got a special birthday surprise of five orca. Photo / Supplied
Charlie Simpson-Powell, 4, got a special birthday surprise of five orca. Photo / Supplied

The pod swam with the boat for 30 minutes and ticked off a bucket list wish for Charlie's mother Shaye Simpson.

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"This has been the one and only thing on my bucket list since I was a girl. I have orca tattoos but have never been able to say I have seen one," she said.

The Ngaruawahia-based family came to Tauranga for the special cruise.

"It was so overwhelming, they are absolutely stunning animals," Simpson said.

"I was bawling my eyes out."

A pod of five orca swam with a boat in Tauranga for 30 minutes. Photo / Supplied
A pod of five orca swam with a boat in Tauranga for 30 minutes. Photo / Supplied

The experience was made more memorable when the captain let the family sit at the front of the boat.

Skipper and marine biologist Brandon Stone said the sighting was a special treat.

"They were so inquisitive that they swam not only around the vessel but under the hull."

Stone encouraged responsible boating behaviour around marine wildlife and asked orca-watchers to keep a respectful distance and reduce speed.

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Simpson said her love for orca had been passed on to her children.

"My youngest daughter started crying on the way home. She said, 'I love orcas so much'.

"I still can't believe it. I was hoping to see dolphins and got so much more than that."