Leigh Pettigrew was enjoying a boat outing with some family and friends when two orca popped up out of the ocean to greet them.
The friendly aquatic duo spent time towing the boats and pushing their noses up to be patted.
“We were about six miles north of Tauranga,” says Leigh, who lives at Mount Maunganui.
“Two orcas joined our boats. There was myself and my brother-in-law in our boat, and my friend and his wife anchored beside us, in their boat.
“They allowed us to pat their noses, swam up and down the anchor ropes, and towed the boats gently around using the anchor rope,” says Leigh.
“Each time they submerged they gave a little slap with their tails, and when they returned later to my friend's boat, they gently tapped the side of his boat with their tail, to announce they had returned.”
Also known as the killer whale, despite its confusing name, the killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca) is actually the largest member of the dolphin family.
They are the most widely distributed mammal on earth with the exception of humans and can be found all throughout New Zealand's coastline. New Zealand is home to an estimated 150–200 individuals, which travel long distances throughout the country's coastal waters.
Females are known to live up to 80 or 90 years.
Males reach physical maturity at about 21 years and live for a maximum of 50-60 years. They can grow up to nine metres in length, with male dorsal fins reaching higher than a metre.
They are acrobatic and are commonly seen breaching and flipper-slapping.
Leigh says the encounter lasted about an hour.
“It was a privilege to be there.”