This summer Nathan kayaked with bronze whalers, dolphins, rays and a very special guest.

We’re at the top end of sum­mer now and it has been an absolute­ly superb sea­son for see­ing some ultra cool ani­mals in the water.

The usu­al sus­pects that fre­quent our coast and inner har­bour have turned up in their droves this sea­son. Eagle rays and stingrays have been seen almost every­where I look. No mat­ter how often they ‘fly’ past me, I nev­er tire of their grace­ful­ness and effort­less ease as they hug our beach­es, often in less than two feet of water. Stingrays can be accom­pa­nied by a few king­fish which pick up any scraps of fish that the stingrays might dis­turb as they glide over the sand.

I’ve been lucky enough to kayak with plen­ty of bronze whaler sharks in the­se warm months. I absolute­ly love the bronzies but they have earned a ter­ri­ble and unfound­ed rep­u­ta­tion, with sight­ings appear­ing in the media alongside pan­icked warn­ings to stay away. There has nev­er been a record­ed attack by a bronze whaler in the Bay of Plen­ty. Ever. Pret­ty amaz­ing when you con­sid­er how many peo­ple enter the water. The truth is, bronze whaler sharks are actu­al­ly very skit­tish and it’s hard to get them to stick around to enjoy their com­pa­ny.

They will often get air­borne to free them­selves of some­thing: par­a­sites, or a hook in their mouth from a trail­ing fish­ing line. The sight of a shark glid­ing through the water is some­thing tru­ly spe­cial and it real­ly is a priv­i­lege to see them; while shark num­bers around the globe plum­met by the mil­lion, we are lucky to have so many of them here.

Anoth­er amaz­ing vis­i­tor to Tau­ran­ga har­bour this sum­mer was a leop­ard seal which had ven­tured up from the Sub-Antarc­tic. I first sight­ed it on a boat and then weeks lat­er, not only was it still here, but it had made itself quite at home at one of the mari­nas. At two metres, this seal wasn’t huge; the big­ger adults don’t tend to vis­it our coast and prefer to stay fur­ther south. Experts believe the juve­niles come to our shore­line to moult, which seemed evi­dent in our lat­est guest who I nick­named Charles. What a very, very cool guest to have!

Fur­ther off­shore, I was lucky enough to get some stun­ning shots of huge pods of com­mon dol­phins. Their name belies their beau­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly when you see 300 of them churn­ing up the ocean with the pow­er of their bod­ies mov­ing through the water and air. Even more excit­ing is spot­ting the recent­ly born calves. They are near per­fect repli­cas of their adult coun­ter­parts but less than a third of the size. So cute.

Soon, sum­mer will draw to a close, and as the water tem­per­a­ture cools, much of the marine life will move out of the Tau­ran­ga waters. The com­mon dol­phins will move on, as will the beau­ti­ful bronze whaler sharks. A few pock­ets of eagle rays will hang around but most will join the oth­er ani­mals in find­ing warmer water. Orcas have absolute­ly no pat­tern what­so­ev­er and could turn up and leave at any time they like, some­thing that makes them fun to spot. But while much of our sum­mer marine life leaves, the cool­er weath­er will see the return of our own small pop­u­la­tion of New Zealand fur seals. Keep your eyes open as you walk around Mauao; you’ll see them scat­tered on the rocks round the base.