Playful orca holiday in Marlborough Sounds
07 Jan 2009
A playful family group of orca are the latest holidaymakers to stop off in the deep blue waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, at the tip of New Zealand’s South Island.
Queen Charlotte Sound is a popular holiday destination, and the pod of 12 orca - two big males, a harem of females and three calves - have been entertaining visitors and locals with their water sports in the Sound over the past few days.
Marine biologist and Dolphin Watch Ecotours co-owner Dan Englehaupt said the orca were first seen in Tawa Bay in Endeavour Inlet on Monday. Since then the group has moved around the Sound visiting each little bay, possibly in search of stingray for feeding.
As the calves were "awkward and clumsy", they were probably born within the past month, Mr Englehaupt said.
Swimming with dolphins
Mr Englehaupt said Dolphin Watch Ecotours had a boat full of people who were aiming to swim with dolphins, but cautioned that orca were purely for observation.
"You can't swim with orca - they eat things bigger than people," he said.
Photos of the mature orca’s dorsal fins and the white saddle area behind the fins of each animal will be sent to the Orca Research Trust for further identification.
"A lot of times you can pick one out of a group that you know, but this time there were none I could identify off the top of my head," Mr Englehaupt said.
South Pacific orca
The Orca Research Trust, set up by Ingrid Visser, is the first research project dedicated to orca in the South Pacific. Ms Visser gathers information on orca from around New Zealand, identifying them from photographs. People also send her their observations of orcas' behaviour.
Mr Englehaupt went out on the water yesterday (Jan 6) and said that when he left the pod at about 10.30am they were heading out of Queen Charlotte Sound. They could be on their way to Kaikoura, French Pass or Wellington.
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