Holiday makers aboard Port Jet Cruise Adventures whale watching boat had the experience of a lifetime on Monday (October 3) morning after spotting a pod of between eight and 12 killer whales off Port Macquarie.
The pod were seen to be frolicking off the coast of Flynns Beach, with ORRCA saying it's likely they were hunting adult and juvenile humpback whales as they continue their journey south to Antarctic waters following the winter migration north.
Owner of Port Jet Cruise Adventures Anthony Heeney was on the boat on Monday morning and said it's the first time he has seen killer whales off our coast.
"I've been doing this for eight years and I've never seen them before," he said. "Craig, one of our experienced skippers, saw them once 15 years ago."
Mr Heeney said it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
"It's very unusual to see them here. You have to be out there at the right time."
He said at first they didn't know what the disturbance in the water was.
"We weren't quite sure what they were until we got closer," he said. "Then they were swimming around the boat and underneath us. It was super cool."
The 9am cruise had been out on the water for almost an hour before they saw the pod of orcas four kilometres from shore.
Mr Heeney said the humpback whales they saw earlier on the same cruise were displaying odd behaviour.
"The humpback's behaviour was a little bit weird and then we saw the orcas and knew that was why they were acting differently," he said.
"The orcas were feeding on a chunk of something when we got to them."
On the second cruise at around 11am, Mr Heeney said a pod of around 10 humpbacks circled the boat.
"I think the humpbacks felt a bit more secure being around the boat. There were about 10 of them and they wouldn't leave us alone and when we left, they tried to follow us."
ORRCA vice president Jools Farrell said it isn't too unusual to see killer whales this time of year, but the large numbers that were seen yesterday as far north as Port Macquarie is a rare sight.
"They have been seen up as far north as Port Macquarie because they follow the humpback whales," she said. "But to have them in the numbers that they saw yesterday is quite amazing really."
Ms Farrell said there was a pod of between 30 and 50 killer whales spotted down near Eden last year, while another large pod put on a show near Bondi.
"Large pods have been seen before off our shores, but what was occurring yesterday doesn't get seen very often," she said.
"You don't see a pod of orcas that size hunting humpback adults and calves."
Ms Farrell said orcas are the top predator for humpback whales, especially during the migration season.
"From what happened yesterday, it appeared that they were hunting this quite large group of humpbacks," she said.
"It looked like there were 10 or 12 humpbacks circling the whale watching boat for protection and once the boat went back in, I heard there was a lot of ferocious activity in the water."
Ms Farrell said ORRCA hasn't been able to determine if any humpback whales were injured or killed by the pod of orcas off Port Macquarie on Monday.
"It's nature and orcas do have to eat as well and that's the way that they go about it. They're very skillful hunters, especially when they're in a large pod like they were yesterday."
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