Humpback Whale Just A Feet Away From Kayakers: See Heartstopping Photo Captured By Giancarlo Thomae [PHOTO, VIDEO]

By Danny Choy on August 29, 2013 9:43 AM EDT

humpback whale
A humpback whale encounter of a lifetime. Karen Hatch holds on to her kayak as the whale surfaces, then dives beneath her. (Photo: Giancarlo Thomae, Sanctuary Cr)

A humpback whale encounter stuns a pair of kayakers as the giant animal surfaces just an arm's length away. The close encounter occurred off the coast of Monterey Bay, California. One of the kayakers managed to record a video of the incredible incident.

Giancarlo Thomae, a marine biologist from Moss Landing, California, and  Karen Hatch were enjoying a whale watching day trip last weekend. According to state law, whale watchers are not allowed to approach within 100 yards of the animals. However, the large humpback whales decided to deliver an unforgettable show to them instead.

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"We were kayak whale watching and the whales just came right up to us," said Giancarlo Thomae. "For being some of the largest animals on the planet, they were very graceful." The enormous humpback whale boasts a staggering length of 40 feet and weighs approximately 80,000 pounds.

"The whole encounter that happened between Karen and I lasted about three-quarters of a second. The whale dove three feet from her kayak and didn't get one drop of water in it. Humpback whales are very curious and playful animals and get very friendly with kayakers and boaters -- although maybe sometimes a bit too friendly."

"As they were cruising so fast, they couldn't even get out of the way. I thought I was going into the water... at the last minute, probably 10 to 15 feet away, they saw me or they heard me, and they dove underneath me really quickly to avoid hitting me. It was incredible."

Humpback whales are a species of baleen whale and is easily identified by its stocky body, long pectoral fins, and knobbly head. Like a number of large whales, the humpback was a target for the whaling industry and was hunted to the brink of extinction. In 1966, humpback whale population has fallen by 90 percent.

Humpback whales are gentle and intelligent animals that are also extremely acrobatic for its size. Its reputation for breaching makes the humpback a popular species with whale watchers in regions including the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, South America, Canada, and the United States.

Finally, here is another heartstopping whale encounter caught on tape!

READ MORE:

Whales Almost Eat Divers: See Massive Humpback Whales Lunge-feed Inches From California Divers [VIDEO, NSFW] 

Super Mega Dolphin Pod: Watch 100,000 Dolphins Stampede Like 'Herd Of Wild Horses' Off San Diego Coast [VIDEO] 

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