A group of kayakers were treated to an extreme close-up with a small pod of humpback whales off B.C.'s South Coast last week.
"There's not a whole lot you can do when the humpbacks decide they're going to move," said Heather Lawrence, who filmed part of the video capturing the encounter.
"Luckily it all went well and we had a huge thrill."
Lawrence didn't think the five-day expedition to the Discovery Islands near Campbell River with Wildcoast Adventures could get any better — until it did.
The trip had already presented the group with amazing vistas and a plethora of wildlife. Just the day before, they had encountered a pod of 30 dolphins feeding, jumping, and swimming beneath them.
Up close and personal
On the third day, the guides heard there was a female humpback whale with a calf and another adult nearby at the Penn Islands, so the group paddled over to see them.
The kayakers were watching the trio of whales from the required distance, until the whales slipped beneath the calm surface of the water.
"We thought they were gone," Lawrence said. "And that's when they really set off a show."
"The baby jumped, and that was like, 'Wow, that's amazing.' But then the mom came up right away and she's humongous compared to baby."
"When she landed I was really hoping she was going to land far away from me."
'She takes up the whole view'
Lawrence said the video she captured was taken with a telephoto lens, so the whale isn't quite as close as she appears. Still, by time the whale breached, she was only about 10 metres away.
"It was really exhilarating. She's huge and that's all that you're seeing. She takes up the whole view," Lawrence said.
"There's not a lot going on in your mind. You're just thinking, 'Holy cow, I can't believe I'm seeing this,' and then you think, 'Oh, I hope I can get out of here safely.'"
Lawrence said as soon as the female humpback breached, she dropped her camera and paddled backwards — as the guides yelled at them to do.
She said the experience was "absolutely the highlight" of the trip.