Holidaymakers and locals in the Bay of Islands have been treated to the reasonably rare sight of orca chasing sharks for a meal.

Northland orca expert Ingrid Visser was on the water on Thursday and Friday when the orca put on a spectacular display, with holidaymakers on a Fullers Great Sights boat getting up close with the massive marine mammals surfacing near the vessel.

Orca chasing sharks in the Bay of Islands
Orca chasing sharks in the Bay of Islands

"All the orca were hunting for rays and sharks and we saw them with a couple of rays and saw them hunt for a shark. They hunt by karate-chopping the sharks," Dr Visser said.

She said among the five orca in the pod was Putita, who stranded first in 2003 at Warkworth and then again in 2010 at Ruakaka. He was with his presumed older brother Rua and presumed mother Yin. Another of the orca is a male known as Ben, who stranded at Mangawhai Beach in 1997 and who was also run over by a boat in October 1998.

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"But has survived and is doing well. He has a very distinctive fin - which is split in half," Dr Visser said. Anybody who sees orca, or other whales, can contact her and the Orca Research Trust at 0800 SEE ORCA.