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Friday, April 22, 2011

Ready for his close-up, a very friendly giant of the whale world

By Daily Mail Reporter

-Barnacle-crusted, 45ft long mammals found in breeding grounds off Mexico

-Grey whales make 20,000km round trip

Up close and personal: One lucky tourist manages to steal an intimate shot of one of the grey whales

These grey whales are so friendly that they even don't mind being kissed by adoring tourists.

The good-natured seafaring giants will swim right up to human visitors, who can dip their faces into the sea to plant a smacker on the heads of the huge 40-ton sea mammals, who can be found off the west coast of Mexico.

The whales love a pat on the head and a rub on their smooth and sometimes barnacle-covered 45foot-long bodies.

Groups of tourists travel from all over the world to play with the families of grey whales, who live in San Ignacio lagoon, on the west coast of Baja California, Mexico, where they migrate to each year to breed and give birth

And these wildlife enthusiasts were lucky enough to be shown the impressive beasts by world famous zoologist Mark Carwardine who has been visiting the area for over 25 years.

'To have a huge, friendly whale willingly approach your boat and look you straight in the eye is without doubt one of the most extraordinary experiences on the planet,' said Carwardine.

Their journey from the Bering Sea in the Arctic – a 20,000km round trip – makes it one of the longest migrations undertaken by any mammal.

Give us a kiss: The friendly grey whales swim up to tourists just off the west coast of Mexico and demand loving

They set off down the Pacific coast in December and don’t eat again until they return to their northern feeding grounds some five months later.

Known as 'friendlies' a 15m-long mother will lift her calf out of the water on her back so it can get even closer to the people in the boats.

Sometimes, they even let people rub their huge tongues or kiss them on the top of the head.

'Normally, I wouldn’t encourage people to touch wild animals,' continued Carwardine, 'but in this case the whales almost insist.

'If you don’t scratch and tickle them, they go and find a boat full of people who will.

'It’s hard to describe how wonderful it is to be so close to a whale. It has a profound affect on most people.

Friendly: The whales love a pat on the head and a rub on their smooth, 45foot-long bodies

'I've been whale-watching for a quarter of a century, in more than 50 countries, and I can honestly say that this is by far the best place for really close encounters with a variety of different whales.'

The Mexican authorities have carefully set aside large areas of the San Ignacio lagoon where boats can’t go, and so the whales can choose when and if they wish to approach the few permitted on the water at any one time.

The sea safari, that begins in San Diego and concludes in the sub-tropical Sea of Cortez, offers astonishingly close encounters with other species, such as the endangered fin whale.

Monsters of the deep: The sheer scale of the whales demands awe - but they have not problem being approached



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