When Judie Johnson of Hahei, New Zealand recently took a dip off the coast of Coromandel, she never expected to be surrounded by a pod of orca whales.
"There was a shape that went under me, like a huge shape and I thought [it was] dolphins and I was quite excited, and then I saw the great white color on the back,” she told New Zealand's 1 NEWS of the experience.
At first, the woman was frightened, telling the news outlet she quickly swam to shore because she was fearful the orcas — also known as killer whales — would harm her.
"I was also thinking they eat seals and I’m in a black wetsuit," Johnson said.
But moments later, she decided to jump back into the water to complete her swim.
The orcas again surrounded her, twisting and turning whimsically below as she gracefully switched from a backstroke to a breaststroke, drone video captured by Australian tourist Dylan Brayshaw shows, according to 1 NEWS.
"It was so different to anything that’s happened to me before, and I thought, no, this is a life-changing experience,” Johnson recalled, adding at one point during her swim she gazed “directly” into the eyes of the adult orca as the smaller two swam nearby.
"They were as interested and curious about me as I was about them,” she added.
These sea creatures are “just big dolphins with a fancy paint job,” orca expert Regina Eisert told 1 NEWS, adding they are the largest members of the dolphin family.
While orca whales are carnivores — they feed on seals, sea lions and sometimes other whales, according to National Geographic — they don’t typically attack humans, and there have been no reported instances of a killer whale eating a human, according to the website Whale Facts.