Even though we know that Killer Whales, or Orcas, do not attack humans, its still incredible to witness the gentle nature of these ocean giants.
For New Zealander Judie Johnson it was an experience of a lifetime as she got eyeball to eyeball with a Killer Whale mother and her two calves.
Ms Johnson was initially shocked to realize that it was Killer Whales and not dolphins which had joined her on her regular swim at Hahei Beach.
It was only after noticing the distinctive white coloring that she understood that it was a pod of Orcas which were keeping her company.
Orca attacks on people are virtually unheard of, though it must still be very intimidating to find oneself at the mercy of such massive beasts.
When they need to be, they can certainly be deadly killing machines. Even the much-feared Great White shark is no match for a Killer Whale, who are known to rip out and feast on the liver of their prey.
Killer Whales also snack on seals – which are not dissimilar in appearance to Ms Johnson in her black wetsuit.
Eye to eye with a Killer Whale
Ms Johnson however was undaunted and decided to take a second swim with the Orcas!
She described how the whale came up to within a metered of here, saying “We just looked at each other like that, with it’s huge eyes.”
The experience was captured by a local, Dylan Brayshaw, who rushed to grab his drone camera after he saw the drama unfolding about 25 meters offshore.
The video demonstrates the wonderfully curious and friendly nature of Killer Whales. Its also easy to see how easily whales can and have been hunted down by fishermen over the past few centuries.
Attacks by Great Whites on humans are certainly more common and there have been several recent instances in places such as Australia and South Africa.
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However, a video which was captured last month on South Africa’s east coast showed how a group of surfers fortunately had their lives spared.
Orcas are reportedly the most widely distributed mammal on earth, apart from humans. The New Zealand population of Killer Whales is small – estimated to be around 150-200.
The creatures are actually most closely related to dolphins and can reach up to nearly 10 meters long. Their dorsal fins can protrude higher than a meter out of the water.
Image credit: Screen Shot