Orca siblings’ visits bringing joy: worker

Kayakers delight in seeing an orca playing in Otago Harbour between Harington Point and Taiaroa...
Kayakers delight in seeing an orca playing in Otago Harbour between Harington Point and Taiaroa Head on Saturday. PHOTO: SAMUEL BETTINELLI/SUPPLIED
An orca sighting is an amazing, but not unheard of, experience for ferry service operator Rachel McGregor after 18 years working on Otago Harbour.

However, a close encounter with the now well-known brother (Danny) and sister (Prop) orca pair in the harbour on Saturday has given her a new perspective.

"What really struck me [on Saturday], and what I’m really starting to realise for myself now is that, even though orca sightings are really, really amazing - you can’t help but be absolutely blown away when you see something like that - the most satisfying part for me was looking around and seeing all these people all over the road, on the boat, on the wharf, all just completely forgetting all their worries.

"Seeing people who had never seen an orca before now being able to tick it off their bucket list, that was totally amazing."

The orcas had spent much of the day between Quarantine Island and Portobello, to the delight of the Port to Port ferry passengers.

The pair had appeared curious about a group of kayakers, surfacing near them and rolling to get a better view, Ms McGregor said.

Saturday was the third sighting of the orca pair in the past six weeks, a frequency Ms McGregor had not seen in previous years.

"I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that in the 18 years I’ve been working on the harbour.

"And they were the same ones as well, the same siblings."

She had a hunch about what might have prompted the orcas to return.

"I was talking to a researcher from the Orca Research Trust, and they think that the orcas might be feeding on stingrays in the area.

"Paragliders who glide over Portobello have seen quite a lot of rays in the waters there, so that might be what keeps bringing them back."

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