A free-diver recounts his one-of-a-kind encounter of dancing with a humpback whale calf who pirouetted right in front of him.
Pablo Prieto, a 34-year-old man, was watching from a distance when the curious calf left its sleeping mother to investigate him and immediately began to spin.
He spent nearly two hours in the sea off Mo’orea, Tahiti, admiring a massive eight-meter beast – about the length of a London bus – from afar before it decided to join him.
As the whale (scientifically known as the Megaptera novaeanglia) approached, it began to mimic the diver’s movements.
This would result in heartwarming videos, such as the whale diving deep, then swimming to the surface, and spinning for the diver.
During their 20-minute encounter, he feels there was mutual respect and understanding for one another, with the whale inquisitively looking at him later with its big eye as it passed by.
Pablo, now based in Plymouth, England, but originally from the Canary Islands, thinks it may be the most memorable experience of his life.
For him, it emphasizes the importance of protecting the ocean, its inhabitants, and our own consumption effects on sea life.
“It was incredible honestly I went to Tahiti to surf one of my life-long dreams, but my whale encounter was the highlight of my trip and probably my life.”
“I really connected with the whale, like he was in sync with me and gave me eye contact at the end of the clip.”
“The whale came straight towards me, it had a giant eye that was fascinating, and it appeared to be smiling, making me feel completely at ease.
“We were underwater, opposite one another spinning together, the whale was looking at me, and I was spinning in a circle, and then it did the same, I felt like a real dance.
“It would go back to where the mother was, then return to me, and do some more spins, as if it was playing.
“We were keeping a safe distance from the whale to avoid intruding on its territory, which is critical not to do, and it took two hours for it to get any closer.
“The bonding session was approximately 20 minutes long, but it was really strong and there was this eye contact; I didn’t want to leave.
“I had no choice but to leave because I was on a boat and was the only one left in the water for the last half hour, so I couldn’t drag time out any longer.
“They had no idea what I was going through at the time, and they didn’t realize what was going on underwater—I had a fantastic experience there.”
Pablo, who has been surfing for 25 years, believes that anybody in the water should respect the creatures within it and avoid intruding on their personal space.
When a whale approaches him, John believes he was provided the opportunity since he permitted it when it felt calm and ready.
He was more than 50m away from the mother and calf before their encounter.
“It emphasizes how beautiful these creatures are and how important it is for us to protect them, as well as the entire ocean, by keeping an eye on our consumption, micro-plastics, and other factors.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as it was the first time I had ever experienced whales in such a personal and natural way.
“You give them a choice to come to you – rather than invading their space and getting in the way of their personal life – sometimes they will come close to you if they feel like it.”
Since releasing his video, Pablo has been bombarded with a slew of messages, which has gotten nearly 10,000 views on his personal site.
He added: “So many people have reached out to say how lucky I am for such an incredible encounter; for me it feels like a once in a lifetime experience.
“To start with it’s a huge animal to encounter an animal of that size and weight in the wild is amazing.
“But to have such a big animal in a natural habitat coming this close and interacting with you is a breath-taking experience, which I don’t think you can fully explain.”
Pablo was never afraid, despite the vast difference in size between him and the whale that measured six to eight meters.
“I never felt afraid throughout it all; the experience was safe, modest, and serene.
“I don’t believe the same would happen with an elephant or lion in its habitat and the whale was a far more significant creature.”