Nobby, the Orca that was found beached in Papamoa three years ago, was spotted in Bay of Plenty waters as close as the sandbank off Pilot Bay on Saturday. Dolphin Seafaris NZ skipper Stuart Arnold was giving a tour in the area when he spotted the pod of 10 Orca, first at 8am and then later in the day at 2pm. “We had a party of people we were taking around the harbour on a wildlife cruise when we spotted the pod of Orca, which we know quite well."
Identifiable by the unique round nodule on the front of his main dorsal fin, Nobby first graced Tauranga waters in 2008 when he became beached on Papamoa Beach for seven and a half hours.
“It shows that the work and effort of people putting in to refloat these stranded mammals works, because the male is the same one.”
About 2000 people turned out to the beach to watch as Nobby was refloated from the beach. He was later given his name by Whangerei based Orca specialist Ingrid Visser. Stuart says the pod is even more unique as it includes two calves, about one-year-old.
“One of them has lost the top of its dorsal fin, just after it was born about a year ago.
"Ingrid didn’t think it would survive, but we had it frolicking with another calf all over our swim platform; leaping out of the water. It has more than doubled in size since it was born a year ago.”
Stuart says this experience shows there is something positive happening in Tauranga Harbour, even with the fallout from the Rena disaster.
“With all that has happened locally with the local industry here with operators, motieliers, hoteliers in the tourism sector, we are all doing our very best to promote the area and let people know we are open for business."
Stuart says last summer was the most prolific summer for Orca in Tauranga waters, but none had been spotted up until Saturday. “We followed them down to Hunters Creek, ended up down Omokoroa; we left them in the shallows and when we came back they moved back out into the deep water and played around there.”
Stuart says this is one of the best Orca encounters he has had.