An Auckland photographer was treated to a dream shot when he encountered a huge orca just metres from the Coromandel Peninsula coastline.
Chris Turner was returning from a holiday in his campervan when came upon the big mammal near Te Puru, north of Thames, yesterday morning.
"At first I thought it was a remote control yacht – then I saw it go underwater, and just went, far out," he said.
"I pulled over and saw it was just casually swimming along, going quite slowly."
Turner estimated the orca to be at least 7m long, with a dorsal fin measuring a metre high.
"I've never seen one that close to shore before. The only other time I saw one was from a boat. At first I thought it might have been sick."
His other assumption – that the animal was near the shore hunting for tasty stingrays – was more likely, orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser said.
Visser said the orca was a male adult aged more than 20 years old, and it was "very typical" for New Zealand orca to hunt for stingrays that close to the coast.
They were known to visit shallow harbours over winter months in search of rays, which have been described as the orca equivalent of chocolate.