Up-close orca encounter dream come true

Shaye Simpson, right, Lily Simpson-Sullivan, 9, and Charlie Simpson-Powell, 4 years old on Sunday.

Click the image above to watch the video

Five orcas made for very special birthday guests during the Bay Explorer wildlife cruise off the coast of Tauranga.

The pod swam with the boat for 30 mins, fulfilling a bucket list wish for Shaye Simpson and a birthday wish for four-year old Charlie Simpson-Powell.

Shaye says the wildlife cruise was a surprise birthday gift for her youngest daughter, but seeing an orca fulfilled a life-long dream for her.

“This has been the one and only thing on my bucket list since I was a girl. I have orca tattoos but have never been able to say I have seen one.”

The Ngaruawahia-based family came to Tauranga on Saturday afternoon, went swimming and looking for shells and stayed overnight in preparation for their cruise the next day.

“I’ve been on a lot of wildlife cruises,” says Shaye.

“I’ve tried so hard to see one. It was so overwhelming – they are absolutely stunning animals. I was bawling my eyes out.

 “I went up front to the Captain and told him this was my bucket list thing.

“He said ‘Get out there, then!’ And he let us sit up the front.”

Photo: Bay Explorer.

Bay Explorer Skipper and marine biologist, Brandon Stone, says the sighting was a special treat and encouraged responsible boating behaviour around marine wildlife.

“When we saw the orca we reduced to zero boat speed (neutral). They were so inquisitive that they swam not only around the vessel but under the hull. If you encounter orca please give them a respectful distance and reduce your speed whilst maintaining a constant direction.”

For Shaye, it looks as though a love for orca has been passed onto her children.

Photo: Shaye Simpson.

“My youngest daughter started crying on the way home. She said, ‘I love orcas so much.’”

“I still can’t believe it. I was hoping to see dolphins and got so much more than that.”

The Bay Explorer offers half and full day tours to discover Tauranga’s marine life. The eco-tour company also spots many dolphins, blue sharks and penguins on its marine cruises.

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