By Bunmi Adigun @Bunmi_Adigun
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Urged on by their mother, the small calves confidently went up to the tour group who were visiting San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, Mexico.
This adorable moment was captured by zoologist and wildlife photographer, Mark Carwardine on his visit to the area in March 2017.
The lagoon, which is a hot spot for migrating grey whales, is usually filled with calves as they’re nursed in the shallow water.
Mark said: “Grey whales migrate on average 8,000 kilometres between their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic’s Bering, Chukchi and western Beaufort seas and their winter breeding lagoons on the Pacific coast of Baja California, Mexico.
"The calves are born in the lagoons between December and February, and by the time I encountered the whales in March, the curious youngsters were playful and bored, and their mothers often bring their babies to ‘interact’ with humans.”
During the nursing period, the mothers do not eat and feed their calves up to 200 litres of milk a day to keep their strength up before they make their epic voyage to the Arctic.
On average calves are four metres long at birth and tip the scales at around 3.5 tonnes, which pales in comparison to full grown female grey whales who weigh up to 35 tonnes and and are 15 metres long.
Despite being heavyweights the grey whales are fairly calm animals and often went up to the boats encouraging the tourists to pet them as if they were house pets.
Armed with nothing but brooms the tour group used them to scrub the backs of the calves as they made their way to the tiny boats.
Mark said: “They seem to enjoy having their skin rubbed and scratched. Out of all species of whales and dolphins, grey whales have the most hairs, and each follicle is likely to be very sensitive, so they must enjoy the feeling.
"Also, they have a lot of barnacles and whale lice, so probably appreciate the sensation of getting those rubbed off.”
The young whales spent hours playing with the tourists and would often playfully spray them with water.
Mark added: “People are always astonished to see that it is possible anywhere in the world to get as close to whales as this and that the whales seem to enjoy the interaction.
"People sometimes presume they are captive, which of course they are not. The whales approach the boats in their own terms. And it is probably the only instance where people are encouraged to actively touch a wild animal.
"People often feel a surge of indescribable emotion to be able to interact with a whale so.
“The biggest challenge is keeping the camera dry as they seem to aim their blows straight at the lens.”