Mother humpback proudly shows off her newborn baby for swimmers
Humpbacks are extremely intelligent and sophisticated animals. They are curious about humans and will often approach people to have a closer look. Seemingly capable of understanding that swimmers intend them no harm, it is not unusual to have a large humpback whale move close to swimmers for a few minutes at a time.
But to see a mother with a new baby being so relaxed in the presence of people is a real treat for those lucky enough to experience it. These tourists had ventured from all over the world to The Kingdom of Tonga, which is one of the few places in the world that will allow you to swim with humpback whales. Carefully, they slipped into the water and swam towards this mother and her two week old calf. Incredibly, the mother also came towards the swimmers. The baby was very playful and he swam right up to the people on the surface. He rolled and frolicked, seeming to want to play with the little humans. As he swam around and stared at the people, his mother also came over, swimming up and playing with her baby proudly.
Mothers come to Tonga to bear their young because it is one of the few places in the world, free from large sharks and killer whales, the only predators of the humpbacks. They spend several months here, nursing their young until they have grown strong enough to make the long trip north to colder waters where they will feed. The whales will eat tons of krill and small fish, as well as plankton. They store up huge amounts of fat to allow them to migrate south again for breeding and bearing their young. Male humpbacks will follow the females here for breeding, often acting as escorts and protectors for females while they look after their newborns.
Until as recently as 100,000 years ago, humpbacks were the most intelligent creatures on the planet. They were surpassed by humans not so long ago. Capable of complex emotion and possessing the ability to communicate with very sophisticated vocals, these animals are more like us than we once believed. Scientists are only now beginning to understand what amazing creatures they are.
To witness a mother humpback and her baby in the wild, and to look into their eyes is an unforgettable experience.