Two large humpback whales put on a spectacular show for boaties and those watching from land as they played in Whangarei Harbour.

Boatie Aaron Dyer was on his boat about 9am on Saturday when he saw the two whales near NorthPort at Marsden Pt.

Mr Dyer captured footage of the whales surfacing and "waving" their fins as they breached the surface.

He said hew as heading out for a day's fishing - and it turned out to be the best days fishing of the winter so far - when he saw what looked like a big dark cloud near the tug wharf at Marsden Pt. It was the whales surfacing and blowing water from their blow hole.


The whales caught up with him near the log wharf at NorthPort and put on a spectacular display for him.

The 30-year-old grew up in Whangarei and has been on the harbour many times, and while he has had orca and dolphin encounters, this was the first time he had seen humpbacks in the harbour.

"Because I'd seen orca before I didn't get too excited at first, but when we saw them closer you could see they were much bigger than orca. They were massive, at least 35 feet long. They dwarfed my boat and that's 19 feet long," Mr Dyer said.

He said the whales were in cruise mode and seemed to be enjoying their day in the harbour, rather than feeding.

"They were rolling about, over and over and waving their dorsal fins in the air, and slapping the water with their fins. It looked like they were sunbathing, it was awesome."

He watched the pair for about 30 minutes then left when more boats started arriving.

One of the humpback whales in Whangarei Harbour 'waves' as it surfaces. Photo / Aaron Dyer
One of the humpback whales in Whangarei Harbour 'waves' as it surfaces. Photo / Aaron Dyer

"I thought they might not like that many people around so I left."

Northland orca and whale expert Ingrid Visser said Mr Dyer's video of the pair was amazing. At one point in the video - about 1 minute 50 seconds in - it appears that the two collide, but Dr Visser said that was common.

"They are very tactile creatures and they often touch each other under the surface. It's beautiful footage and really clear and the humpbacks are loving it in the harbour."

She said there had been other humpbacks seen in Whangarei Harbour off Northland's east coast in recent years, but she could not tell if the pair who visited on Saturday had been seen before.

"There are three ways of telling individual humpbacks. One is the shape of their dorsal fin, another is the scars that are usually caused by cookie cutter sharks and also by the pigmentation on their under flutes. Unfortunately I can't say for sure (from the footage) if we have seen them up here before," Dr Visser said.

She said there were also orca off Cape Brett yesterday.

Dr Visser said watching whales could be an awesome experience, but she reminded people that there are strict rules around marine mammal encounters, including not being allowed with 50m of them and not being allowed to swim with them. Whale sightings can be reported to Dr Visser on 0800 SEE ORCA.