By Josh Saunders
A free-diver shares his once in a lifetime encounter dancing with a humpback whale calf who pirouetted right in front of him.
Pablo Prieto, 34, was observing from a distance when the curious calf left its sleeping mother to investigate him and soon began to spin.
He spent nearly two hours in the waters near Mo’orea, Tahiti, admiring the eight-metre sea creature – nearly the length of a London bus – from afar before it decided to join him.
As the whale, known scientifically as the Megaptera novaeanglia, approached it started to mirror the diver’s actions.
This would lead to the heart-warming clips where the whale dives deep before swimming to the surface and spinning for diver.
During their 20-minute encounter, he believes there was mutual respect and understanding for one another with the whale inquisitively staring at him later with its large eye as it swam passed him.
Humbled by the experience Pablo, who is currently based in Plymouth, England, but originally from Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, believes it could be the best experience of his life.
For him, it reinforces the need to protect the ocean, creatures within it and be mindful of our own consumption affects sea life.
Pablo, co-founder of Star Surf Camps, said: “It was unreal, honestly I went to Tahiti to surf one of my dream waves, but my whale encounter was the overall highlight of my trip and probably my life.
“I really felt the connection to the whale, like he was synchronised with me and appreciated the eye contact at the end of the clip.
“The whale came straight towards me, they have a huge eye, which is quite fascinating, it looked like it was smiling and really I felt safe at all times.
“We were underwater, opposite one another spinning together, the whale was looking at me and I was spinning in circle and then it was spinning in a circle, it was like a real dance
“It would go back to where the mom was then back to me and do some more spins, it was like it was playing.
“We were keeping a safe distance to not invade the area, which is essential, you must not invade their space and is why it took two hours for the whale to come closer.
“The overall bonding was about 20 minutes long, but it was really confident and there was this eye contact, I didn’t want to leave.
“But I had to because I was on a boat and was the only one left in the water for last half hour, so couldn’t drag time out any longer, so I had no choice but to leave.
“They didn’t know what I was experiencing at that time and had no idea what was happening underwater, I was having a magical moment there.”
Pablo, who has been surfing for 25 years, is adamant that anyone in the water should respect the creatures within it and not interfere in their personal space.
He believes he was gifted the experience due to allowing the whale to approach him when it felt comfortable and was ready.
Prior to the encounter he kept himself more than 50metres away from the mother and calf.
Pablo said: “It reinforces how beautiful the creatures are and how we need to protect them, and the overall ocean, by looking after our consumption, micro-plastics and more.
“This experience is special because of the way the whale came to me in such a natural way, and it has to happen this way.
“You give them the choice to come to you – rather than invading their space and getting in way of their personal life – sometimes they will come close to you if they feel like it.”
Since sharing his footage with others reaching nearly 10,000 views on his personal page, Pablo has been bombarded with messages.
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.”
Despite the vast difference in size between Pablo and the whale that measured six to eight metres, he was never concerned.
Pablo said: “I never felt fear at any point throughout it all, the experience felt safe, humble and peaceful.
“I don’t think the same would happen with elephant or lion in the habitat and the whale was a much bigger animal.”