Two Aucklanders popping out for a casual dip at dawn today ended up having one of the experiences of a lifetime as half a dozen dolphins joined in the fun.
Mark Sagar and his partner Jodi were heading down for a swim at their local Cheltenham Beach, when they saw some fins bobbing around offshore near North Head/Maungauika.
It was clear they were the more docile of the dorsal fin-bearing sea mammals, and so they grabbed their paddleboards and went out to greet them.
"It was amazing. I thought they might have left by the time we got there, but they started coming towards us, even swimming underneath us."
There were seven in total, which Sagar believed could have been bottlenose dolphins due to their white bellies, and they stuck around for about half an hour.
Even after the pair paddled back to shore, the dolphins were still sticking around.
So Sagar decided to try swimming with them.
"I was a little nervous at first, Jodi followed, but they were so graceful, diving underneath us. They were big dolphins, the biggest I have seen."
Sagar had only ever swum with dolphins once before, about 25 years ago while on a guided tour in Kaikōura.
"But this was different. It is just so incredible to have them down here, at our local beach.
"What a great start to summer."
Department of Conservation shark expert and technical adviser Clinton Duffy confirmed the dolphins were indeed bottlenose.
"These dolphins are a part of a semi-resident population that spends a lot of time in this part of the Hauraki Gulf," Duffy said.
"Bottlenose dolphins are seen quite regularly in the Gulf and sometimes well up Waitematā Harbour.
"There is no real common time to spot them and can be encountered at any time of the day or night."