Mother and baby humpback greet swimmers

Humpback whales are one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring animals on the planet. They are majestic and enormous, creating an appreciation for how small and fragile humans are in comparison. Being lucky enough to see one in the wild is an unforgettable experience. It is only then that we can fully grasp how massive and powerful they are. But actually swimming beside one is a thrill that cannot even be described. Weighing as much as 30 tons (27,000kg) and reaching 52 feet in length (24m), they are among the true giants of the ocean. These lucky swimmers had traveled to The Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific Islands, to see the animals close up. Part of a tour with a certified guide, they carefully slipped into the water to observe this mother and her baby from a distance. They couldn't believe their good fortune when the mother turned and lazily drifted towards them for a closer look. Humpbacks are curious and very tolerant of humans but they are usually more reserved when they have a newborn. This mother seemed unconcerned as she and her baby closed the gap and looked at everyone closely. The swimmers moved back a few times, as required, keeping a respectful and safe distance. Their fins appear in the video as they swim backwards to move away. It is for the benefit of the animals that closer contact is avoided, and also for the safety of the people since humpbacks are powerful and heavy. It appears that this mother might have been providing her baby with a lesson in how to inspect the strange creatures that can be found in the water and she repeatedly drifted right to them. For almost ten minutes, floated and turned, moving very slowly in the direction of the swimmers. Mother humpbacks come to Tonga to give birth because it is one of the few places in the ocean where killer whales do not go. Humpbacks fear only large sharks and killer whales, and their babies are vulnerable to both of these predators in the first few months of life. The mother keeps her calf close to her head and she will lift it out of the water to protect it if a threat appears. The baby instinctively knows that this is where it should be but it swam around and rolled a few times as if tempted to play with the humans. Humpback whales are also one of the most intelligent creatures on earth, having an intellect comparable to dolphins and chimpanzees. Until as recently as 100,000 years ago, it is believed they were the smartest of all creatures on our planet. Looking onto the eyes of one of these beautiful whales, it's not hard to appreciate the wisdom and intellectual capacity behind their gaze. Anyone who has ever been in the presence of a humpback is simply not the same afterwards. Losing these whales to pollution, harvesting, or anything else would be tragic beyond words. Our oceans would not be the same without them.

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