Northland orca expert Ingrid Visser wants to hear from anyone spotting the black and white marine mammals along New Zealand's coastline so a National Geographic crew can film for an exciting new television series.

Visser, who lives on the Tutukaka Coast and has studied orca for 30 years, said it was any researcher's dream to work with National Geographic.

"We all strive to reach that level of recognition and it's a great honour," Visser said.

"It's been a long, long process to get them here and make this particular shoot work."


The team are assembling in Tutukaka this week and the American and New Zealand film crew would begin filming as soon as orca are spotted.

The resulting footage will appear in a limited television series on the National Geographic Channel, beginning in 2020. The series consists of four hour-long programmes on whale culture, each focusing on a different whale species.

Filming would continue until the middle of September but sightings of orca were crucial to the success of the project.

"We want to hear from anyone around New Zealand. We know they can swim between 100 and 150km a day so a sighting in Wellington should be reported to us."

Visser said orca had been spotted in Northland over the past few weeks so boaties and those close to the coast should keep an eye out and call in sightings to 0800 SEE ORCA.

"It's an amazing opportunity to showcase New Zealand orca."

Red Rock Films, a production company based near Washington, DC, is collaborating with Visser.

The crew will be joined by New Zealand underwater cameraman and filmmaker Kina Scollay.

Orca are majestic in their own environs as this photo by Kina Scollay shows. Photo / Kina Scollay
Orca are majestic in their own environs as this photo by Kina Scollay shows. Photo / Kina Scollay

A social media co-ordinator will monitor online traffic for orca sightings in the region, to help the team locate the animals.

If the decision to head out is a "go" they will activate a travel protocol to get them to the reported location with their boats, and highly-specialised filming gear.

The idea for a story on whale culture is the brainchild of Brian Skerry, an award-winning photojournalist specialising in marine wildlife and underwater environments.

Skerry's photos have graced the pages of National Geographic magazine for more than 20 years, and he was the first to photograph a sitting US President underwater — President Obama in January 2017, off the coast of the Midway Atoll.

Heading up the series is Emmy-winning director Andrew Mitchell, a veteran wildlife filmmaker who has made dozens of films for National Geographic.

To report an orca sighting or stranding via social media, contact Ingrid Visser on 0800 SEE ORCA or through the Orca Research Trust via Facebook:

Or Kina Scollay at or on instagram at @kinascollay.