A boat full of eager ocean-watchers was treated to a whale of a show when a migrating gray whale hugged and played with their floating catamaran in the water off Dana Point.
The barnacle-covered gray whale swam right up next to the boat lead by Captain Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari.
“If I could’ve reached down from the boat, I could’ve touched this gray whale. He looked at me with his eye. He was amazing,” whale watcher Don Bennett, visiting from Fort Wayne, Indiana, said.
Astonished passengers watched as the whale rolled over on its back, swam upside down and enticed playful bottlenose dolphins to slide across its belly.
“Oh my gosh. This is unreal,” a crew member said while recording a video (embedded below) of the interactions from one of the boat’s underwater viewing pods.
Captain Dave Anderson said that “without a doubt” this was the best view his crew has ever had of a gray whale underwater.
“The water was so clear and the whale was actually playing us and with the dolphin. This was an extraordinary encounter,” he said.
It’s still early in the whale watching season, but already, this year is the second-highest for cetacean sightings along the Southern California coast in more than three decades.
The whales are on their annual migration from the cold waters off Alaska to the warm lagoons of Baja California.
And SoCal’s plentiful pods have been making headlines every day this week – with a rare courtship ritual caught on camera close to shore, and a fossilized skull from a never-before-seen species found on the campus of a Los Angeles prep school.