It has been a hell of a year for kayaker and marine educator Nathan Pettigrew.
In February, Pettigrew joined stand-up paddleboarder Brent Bourgeois in completing a gruelling voyage paddling from Auckland to Mount Maunganui over four days. Moments after landing his feet back on the sands at Pilot Bay, Pettigrew said he was reluctant to attempt anything like it again.
"But now all I can think about is getting away on another big adventure," Pettigrew said.
"I believe we have a Mount to Mayor island trip coming up for a training paddle."
Work commitments and injury has meant Pettigrew is not on the water as much these days, but he still aims to get out once or twice a week. A typical ride takes him 15km to 20km offshore where he often experiences unique encounters with orca, sharks, dolphins, and other marine life.
Pettigrew's encounters have become so frequent, he is one of only a few in New Zealand to hold a special permit allowing him to get up close to marine life such as whales.
Much of what he experiences is captured on camera and shared online. This year, Pettigrew has expanded his fan base by sharing his encounters with schoolchildren - raising awareness and education on how to care for the ocean and what to do if they encounter wildlife.
For Pettigrew, the talks are incredibly rewarding.
"I spoke at Otumoetai Primary a couple of weeks ago. I think the kids enjoyed it too because they sat glued to the screen for 45 minutes.
"You can't be in a position that I'm in and be lucky enough to have the marine mammal permit and not pass the experiences on to our younger generation. And I am extremely fortunate and grateful to those that have helped me along the way."
Pettigrew said he would love to continue the school talks "as well as promoting a 'live life' attitude in this awesome city".
"If I could do it as a job, I'd be stoked!"
But the biggest highlight of 2017 for Pettigrew was seeing the return of bottlenose dolphins to Tauranga Harbour.
"I see orca relatively often compared to most people, but seeing these dolphins after a long absence from our harbour brought hope as numbers decline around parts of New Zealand.
"Kayaking with humpback whales on a couple of occasions was also a treat as numbers slowly increase as they migrate past our coastline."