Humpback whale playful calf encounters are probably about as dangerous as it gets swimming with Tonga’s whales.
Newly born calves are 3-4m long, weigh up to 1 ton and are a significant animal in their own right but, compared to their mothers, they appear relatively small.
Initially they are quite timid and the mothers are very protective, but consuming as they do up to 200 litres of its mother’s fat-rich milk per day allows the calves to grow quickly and as they do they start to demonstrate playful behavior at the surface such as breaching and tale slapping.
It is believed that this is to strengthen the calf in preparation for the long migration south and so the mother will allow this cavorting around while watching for potential predators.
The calves are very inquisitive and may come over to check you out, but be warned this is probably as dangerous as in-water whale watching gets because, although not aggressive in nature the calves have very little spatial awareness, unlike the mature whales that always seem to know exactly where you are.
So the risk is that you may get side-swiped by the calf’s pectoral fin or fluke as it turns or, even worse get caught in a tale slap!
But the risk is well worth it in my opinion as the interaction with the calves is a sheer delight as their youthful energy and enthusiasm seems to positively radiate from them making such encounters truly memorable.
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