Baby humpback whale puts on acrobatic show for thrilled swimmers

Humpbacks are among the most beautiful and peaceful animals on the planet. They spend part of the year in colder northern climates, feeding on krill, plankton, and small fish. They are gentle creatures that have baleen instead of teeth. Despite their immense size, they are gentle giants. Even so, they are massive and powerful animals, capable of protecting themselves and their young with their huge tails, if needed. Mother whales come yearly to the waters in the Kingdom of Tonga, a cluster of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It is here that they give birth to a single calf. This is one of the few areas in the world where orcas don't venture. Orcas and large sharks are the few predators that prey on newborn humpbacks. A full grown adult can outswim these killers, but a calf could not. Mother humpbacks feed their babies milk for several months while they drift in the safe waters of Tonga. Humpback cows have built up a large fat reserve before they arrive here and it is depleted as they produce a fat and protein rich milk for their babies. The calves grow rapidly and gain strength that will be needed when their mothers need to return to the feeding grounds in colder waters. And while they make the return trip, they will need to avoid hungry predators. These nature enthusiasts are actually swimming with three humpbacks. The mother drifts lazily as she rests, making her way from the depths to the surface every eleven to twelve minutes to breathe. She is aware that her baby is playfully swimming around the people in the water, but she seems to understand that they mean no harm. They must be careful to keep their distance because the mother might object of they get too close. A male, or bull humpback waits patiently with the female. Referred to as an escort, the male will intervene if the cow is threatened. He will also fend off other bulls who are interested in mating with the female. In return, he hopes that she will consider him favourably in the weeks that follow when she is ready to mate again. Females carry their calves for eleven and a half months and give birth every two years. These swimmers are incredibly lucky to experience this interaction with the baby whale. They are also lucky to experience such trust from the mother whale to allow it.