A young humpback whale put on a spectacular show for Labour Monday visitors to the Bay of Islands, spending up to 15 minutes launching itself out of the water near Cape Brett.
Marine mammal expert Jo "Floppy" Halliday suspected it was a young male that had not followed its fellow humpbacks to the tropics for winter, choosing to skip the intense competition for females and hang out off the New Zealand coast instead.
"He was coming up, throwing himself on his back, flapping his pectoral fins around ... It was just beautiful. He was so far out of the water you got a real idea of his size."
It was not clear why whales breached but it could be a form of play, an effort to shake off barnacles, or practice for mating-season antics.
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"More than likely he was just in a playful mood," she said.
The photos were taken by Lawrence Hamilton from the Fullers GreatSights vessel, Tangaroa, taking tourists on the Cream Trip. Mrs Halliday was leading a dolphin eco-cruise on the Tutunui, which caught the show, as did tourists on the Dolphin Seeker. "They were totally, totally excited," she said.
The Bay put on another treat for visitors yesterday with a pod of up to eight orca chasing stingrays in the shallows around the islands.