Written by Amos Nachoum

According to NBC News, a pair of 40-ton giants got dangerously close to a surfer in Santa Cruz, California. The US Coast Guard isn’t saying for sure, but there are many reports of more humpbacks coming closer to shore than ever. Some whale experts, like those at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, say this is something to worry about. They’re concerned about people getting hurt.

NBC quoted Kera Mathes of the Aquarium as saying “Being that close to an 80,000-pound whale when it’s coming up and looking for food isn’t safe,” she said. “When these surfers and kayakers are so close, it definitely poses a danger to the whale and those in the water.”

She’s right… but I believe it’s possible to get close to this remarkable animals, and get close safely.

Here are ten facts about Humpbacks from the American Cetacean Society and from my experience.

  1. They belong to the same family as the blue whale, fin whale, Bryde’s whale, sei whale and minke whale.
  2. The females are bigger than the males: from 45-50 feet to the males’ 40-48.
  3. Humpbacks feed on krill, small shrimp-like animals, and small fish and eat up to 1.5 tons of food a day.
  4. Baleen plates, not teeth, trap their food to be swallowed.
  5. Humpbacks are acrobatic, breeching their 40 tons completely out of the water.
  6. They sing, and their songs are complex with each population singing its own unique song.
  7. Their songs are not inborn – they learn them from each other.
  8. The are capable or migrating the globe, from Antartica to the Pacific.
  9. They breed, give birth and care for their newborn calves in the warm waters of Tonga.
  10. If you want the best pictures of them, you’ll need a wide angle lens and will need to learn how to safely swim close to them.

I’ve got dozens of years’ experience photographing Humpback whales, and I know the way to get the best photograph is to treat them respectfully and free dive close. I’ve trained adventurers to do this over 10-day expeditions that I lead, and I have picked the tropical paradise of Tonga for this. Not only is it the very definition of an island paradise, but it is prime territory for the Humpbacks during their breeding period. As you free dive among them on this adventure, you’ll see mother and calf interacting and the bulls tail-slapping and breeching. Would you like to join me? My next Humpback whale adventure departs August 20, 2012.

Coming up right away next year is my adventure in the Carribean to see the largest carnivore in the world – the Sperm whale. There are only a few spaces left, so get in touch with me to reserve yours. Sperm whales were among the world’s most hunted animals – almost driven to extinction. But how they have made the best comeback in the history of wildlife with almost as many now as there were a hundred years ago. Sperm whales are the easiest whales to approach – they are curious and friendly as they socialize in pods of five to thirty. For this encounter, Big Animals Expeditions has teamed with Andrew Armour, known in the diving commmunity as the ‘whale whisperer.’ We will be on his boat, the Domnik. Download the PDF flyer now.

Follow me on Twitter.  Friend on Facebook.