'Oh my god!' - Kayak tour group in 'absolute awe' as large orca bull says hello

A group of kayakers had a close encounter with an orca bull which left them in "absolute awe" on the Queen Charlotte Sound yesterday.

Marlborough Sounds Adventure Co tour guide Dave Watson says its the first orca experience he has had after working in the industry for 25 years.

"It was around 10am and we had been on the water for around an hour when it happened," Watson said of the encounter.

Video taken by Watson shows a large orca breach the water right next to the kayak tour group, before ducking under their craft.

He says the tour was in "absolute awe" of the majestic marine mammal, while there was also a bit of trepidation before it safely swam beneath them.

"Everyone was buzzing afterwards and I was absolutely stoked," Watson says.

There were two other orca in the area, but they didn't approach the kayaks.

A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation says, "We can’t be sure why the orca swam by the kayakers as it did.

"Orca use echolocation for sensing prey and objects in their surrounding environment so it’s expected it would have been aware of the kayaks. Orca are agile swimmers.

"The kayakers did the right thing in staying still and close together with the orca in their vicinity."

DOC also pointed out some rules to remember when encountering orca in the ocean:

• Do not swim within 100 m of a killer whale/orca.

• Your vessel should not be within 50 m of a killer whale.

• There should be no more than three vessels within 300m of any marine mammal, additional vessels may watch from 300m.

• Your vessel should approach orca from behind and to the side.

• Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group.

• Operate your boat slowly and quietly at 'no wake' speed when within 300m of a killer whale.

• Avoid sudden noises that could startle the animals.