Kayakers Raised Out of the Water by Playful Whale, Capture the Incredible Encounter on Camera

A couple of kayakers, believe to be a father and daughter, had an unbelievable encounter with some playful whales in the waters off the coast of Puerto Madryn, Argentina. They captured the entire thing in a GoPro video that has since gone viral, but the footage has sparked serious criticism from authorities and those who capture professional footage and photos of these gentle giants.

On one level, the footage seems to capture a wonderful interaction between a pair of curious humans and a gentle whale, and if you want to enjoy it as such you’re more than welcome to. But anybody who has ever professionally photographed or videoed whales knows that the pair were breaking every rule in the book and endangering themselves in the process.


Reports claim the whales pictured are Southern Right Whales, and while it doesn’t seem like the pair was in any real danger, local environment minister Jose Maria Musmeci told the Mirror Online that it is “illegal to approach marine mammals either in a vessel or by swimming or diving and if we can catch anybody they will be prosecuted.”

We’re all for capturing amazing photographs and video, and we’ve seen photographers get in some dicey situations while capturing them, but know the laws and respect them. Wildlife photography and videography can be a wonderful thing, but this incredible footage, at least for this writer, is tainted by the fact that it was captured irresponsibly.

Let us know what you think in the comments down below, and if you’d like to see similarly incredible footage captured by someone who knows and was obeying the laws, check out this video we shared back in March.

(via Kottke)

  • Christopher Eaton

    Was it captured irresponsibly? Without know more (any facts as such are not specified in this story), it appears that they are out kayaking, whales breach in the distance, they stop paddling – meaning they stop approaching the whales – and then the whales approach them. Was this truly irresponsible and illegal or was it just a chance encounter?

  • OtterMatt

    I’m pretty confused. Not sure I see what’s illegal here. Was it only illegal after they recorded it?

  • EPOC

    I hope they were arrested, there is clearly proof of their actions!

  • Nellie Nelson

    To me we need proof that they intended to do this, and not knowing their language, it id hard yo know if it was their intent. It’s a great video but I can also see the dangers. ,Maybe playing with dolphins started it all, or is it different rules?

  • marc

    you are an idiot. they are out kayaking and come across whales and stop paddling. illegal? what is with people telling people what to do. if the whales killed them so what…life moves on. if i want to swim with sharks…who cares. as long as i dont hurt another person. governments act like they care but they just want to control even with stupid laws.

  • Ed

    There is a risk in every interaction with wild animals, specially with the larger-than-you-and-your-kayak variety, but I just don’t see the irresponsibility. Maybe they should’ve paddled away, and maybe they should be reprimanded for not doing so and/or told to avoid future similar encounters. But prosecution?! Those time and resources will be far more useful prosecuting whale poachers who are a real danger.

  • Shan

    Some pretty dumb laws you have there, Argentina. Let people live free, and take responsibility for their own actions!

  • Disqus is an NSA shill

    Silly man.
    The irresponsible persons here obviously approached the animals without any ill intent or even volition. Hence they didn’t take the necessary, expected and traditional pains to offer respectful appropriate bribes to the officials in charge.
    Hence harsh implementation and prosecution of the law.
    Don’t you know anything?

  • Burnin Biomass

    This according to the link to the link above…
    “The duo spotted the whales swimming only a few hundred metres away and decided to get a closer look.”

  • the truth hurts

    I dont kbow about you…. but if im in a kayak nd I see two huge whales near me.. I go about 20ft in the other direction

  • Scott M.

    The Southern right whales are among the most endangered whales on the planet. Called right whales, they floated when the whalers killed them. They were the ‘right” whales to get. I love whales (see avatar) and don’t think these people were too aggressive. Looked like the whale did it for fun. No harm done.

  • Peter Reynolds

    I agree with you. I don’t see how this is irresponsible. Seems like an innocent, one-in-a-million encounter. Perhaps the naysayers (the author included) are jealous they didn’t experience it for themselves.

  • Michael Fischer

    Peter is right. What an awesome experience!

  • Kynikos

    Oh sure, arrest them. They look like real, hardened criminals. Aside from this, they probably taped a Major League Baseball game without express written consent.

  • Kynikos

    You think these are bad laws? I’ve got your bad laws! Right. Here.

    –1970s Argentine Junta

  • Juan

    In that place you can see whales with their calves from the beach, several months a year. It is not an encounter in a million. The law prohibits approaching whales to prevent thousands of tourists disturb the whales when feeding their youngs. These two people should know very well the law because is something the authorities repeated all the time to tourists.

  • Juan

    It is illegal to approach the whales, not to film.

  • cathy cakebread

    Wow! What a phenomenal experience! Admittedly they were a bit closer but I have never been on a whale trip where they didn’t do the exact same thing – stop a distance away in the path of the whale and let the whale come to them. If the whale was unhappy they would have done tail or fluke slaps. And the father and daughter reacted perfectly by sitting quietly with their oars away from the whale. It could have been a risk to the father and daughter but that was a choice they made. I would be concerned for the whales if lots of folks did this but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

  • Toby Hawkins

    ‘tainted by the fact it was captured irresponsibly’ – I really don’t see how this video is tainted. As others have said, they seemed to just be out kayaking when the whales appeared, and besides, can no one make decisions for themselves anymore? Everything in life is a calculated risk.

    Also, the number of dangerous videos on here of people with gopros, or photos on top of buildings, or in caves etc. Why are they not also ‘tainted’? The creators of many of those deliberately put themselves in far more danger.

  • Biff

    > “what is with people telling people what to do”

    It’s a two-way street & happens on both sides of the political spectrum.

    It’s like those homophobic, religious, conservatives who want the government to reduce the rights of people deemed to be gay.

    Or those conservative prudes wanting to dictate what should & shouldn’t be allowed in the privacy of people’s own bedrooms.

    Or those Republicans who want the government to FORCE their religious views on others by taking away women’s freedom to choose, and FORCE all women to carry the seeds of incest & rapes.

    Or those conservative, Islamic religious fundamentalists, who want to force women to wear Burkas.

  • NDT001

    Yeah true, i suppose the laws are just there to discourage people from intentionally getting too close. Some people lack common sense and get carried away, and risk hurting themselves or these gentle creatures.

  • NDT001

    The laws are just there to discourage people from intentionally getting too close. Some people lack common sense and get carried away, and risk hurting themselves or these gentle creatures.

  • ted

    couldn’t care about protecting the kayakers its about protecting the whales

  • Guest

    I wouldn’t.

  • Frogonastring

    I don’t see the fuss here. It seems more like the whales approached them rather than the other way around.

    I full understand that the rules are there to protect the animals, but the reality is that whales and other cetaceans are highly intelligent, highly curious animals and if they’re not alarmed, they do approach boats and humans – they’re just as curious about us as we are about them!

    Claims of this being illegal are silly – you can see they stop paddling when they were a sensible distance from the animals. Besides, really, what harm can a plastic canoe do to a massive right whale? There’s more risk the other way around – perhaps the whale should be prosecuted for damage to a marine craft! /s

  • Funambule

    Definitely harassing the whales in respect to approaching them actively… the camera is not zooming in… the kajak keeps moving over the water surface… absolutely illegal and irresponsible towards the whales and themselves… no ‘amazing footage or photographs’ justify such behaviour of people… and sharing them on the internet invites more people to do so… I have studied whales for 20 some years… I know how to read their behaviours… yet never would I approach them like this… not due to safety in the first place… simply out of respect for them and their needs…

    Approaching a feeding or resting whale like this is like visiting people in their home, jumping on their dinner table or into the bed while the owners are eating or sleeping… we do not do this either

    So yes this was very irresponsible… and it is irresponsible to state that whales approached the people (see below, but a often read statement on occasions like this)… what an excuse… although it can happen that the whales surface close, on most occasions approaching happens in the process of the situation (never explained or shown in the videos)…

    Respectful means to stay away from the animals for at least 100m (when animals stay in place) or more when whales are moving or actively feeding…

    and a final remark: Although I like the text of the article here (as it questions the situation and addresses the harassing aspect) to title the whales “being curious” is wrong creating a wrong impression as if the whales were having fun and being the active part… the video clearly proofs the contrary…

  • Funambule

    and one last word… having worked around whales for thousands of hours I very well know the urge to approach the animals to have a closer look… out of respect for the needs of the whales (or any wildlife) one has to counter this urge actively…

    to make the encounter being a true experience without bitter flavour to it…

  • Douglas Clarke

    I don’t know enough about whales to make statement on their actions one way or the other. However they have done something most people will never experience. I detect a bit of jealousy in some of the comments by the naysayers.

  • EPOC

    Great point. Doubt they taped an MLB game as it is not really an Argentine pastime. However, had they it is not a criminal offence but rather a Civil one that the MLB would need to consider enforcing maintain their Intellectual Property.

  • Kiltedbear

    Yeah great, except that whale watches do JUST THAT just about every day of every week from major port cities. But I guess that’s OK because you pay them to take you and they pay the city to be licensed to do so. I’m not usually this cynical, but something tells me it’s all about money. After all, what can do more damage to whales? A bunch of gasoline powered open deck craft or two people in a small kayak?

  • Kiltedbear

    Illegal to “approach whales”?! Whale watches do JUST THAT just about every day of every week from major port cities. But I guess that’s OK because you pay them to take you and they pay the city/government to be licensed to do so. I’m not usually this cynical, but something tells me it’s all about money. After all, what can do more damage to whales? A bunch of gasoline powered open deck craft or two people in a small kayak? Full disclosure, I have been on several whale watches and thought they were great. I just don’t see what the difference is. Seems like they are outlawing for everybody because of what a few people *might* do to harm the species.

    I have a better idea. Let’s actually stop the practice of whaling. That will help a million times more than anything these two people might have done.

  • hooby

    Do whale watching tours do that? In most places they are required to stay 100 yards away. There are good reasons for this.

  • hooby

    Marc, you’ve really thought that one out didn’t you?

    I guess now we don’t rescue people who put themselves in dangerous situations? Just let them die? I think most people would say we should continue to rescue people, which costs money and sometimes the life of the rescuer. Or we don’t have to ensure somebody who goes and starts feeding wild animals does it in a way that won’t make that animal attracted to humans and create many unwanted circumstances? There are many more reasons laws like these have been put in place.

    Even if you can’t fathom the reason for a law (and I’m assuming you spent an entire 2 maybe 3 minutes thinking about it), they’re usually created as a response to something that actually happened and is/was a problem. Maybe looking into the reasons behind the law(s) would be a good start, rather than spreading crap around the internet.

  • Kiltedbear

    Well, just like what seems to happen in this video, one watch I was on came upon some whales and turned off the engines to coast and the whales came close to check us out. You can’t avoid it. Anybody who has experienced a few whale watches knows this. The law is well intentioned, but from a practicality standpoint, it doesn’t happen that way. Whale watches approach the area of where whales are at and the whales very often do the exact same thing to the boat.

  • hooby

    The law, as I’m familiar with it, does not prohibit whales from coming towards you. It prohibits you from actively going within 100 yards of them. If the whale watching tour gets that close it is their responsibility to stop at that time and not coast within the 100 yard range. The whales can then come toward the boat and many whale watching tours have come to understand various ways to attract them, however this video is nothing like that.

    You essentially said as much when you said the tour will turn off their engines when approaching that close. They should not, however, glide closer. Either way, the people in this video aimed directly at, made no attempt to move away, and even paddled a little more to get right on top of those whales. It’s illegal and dangerous. That’s really all there is to it. If you want to decry the laws in place, it would be prudent to have a full understanding of why the laws were put in place.

  • Kiltedbear

    Well, somebody said that in this video they did say that they wanted to go for a closer look but I don’t know this first hand, but we also don’t know if they said this 120 yards away from the whales or 20 yards away from the whales and it appears to me in the video that they stopped paddling well before the whales got close, so who is to blame about this encounter? You even said that if whales come to check you out that it is OK. I don’t see any proof in this video that they paddled right up to the whales so it seems to me you are assuming a lot to just support your comment.

    Oh, and BTW, yes watches shut off their motors when they spot whales, but some of them dive for up to 20 minutes or more and then breach right beside the boat. I had this happen on one watch and we were still moving because the pilot had no idea they were there. They of course cut the engine immediately. My point being is that they are somewhat unpredictable critters and if the law is also to protect people as well as protect the animals, I don’t think the people in this video were too worries about their safety, so I am not quite sure what you are trying to argue unless you think either they intended harm to the animals or that they could have hurt the whale with a kayak or paddle.

  • hooby

    First, you are not an expert. Neither am I. Difference is you are taking a position contrary to the laws which were put into place by people much more knowledgeable of the subject than you or I. If you take the point of view they are wrong, you should have more to back that up than a few whale watching trips you’ve been on.

    Second, the first 10 seconds of the video clearly shows them paddling straight towards the whales.

    What exactly am I assuming Kiltedbear? That they paddled while pointing their kayak directly at the whales? That’s not an assumption, it is shown on the video. Typically you would paddle away or in a different direction. I have kayaked very close to Orcas before and as soon as we see them we get away.

    If you don’t like the law, then maybe you should get informed about it and then come back with something factual about how it’s actually productive to let people ride on top of whales or hang out with them.

    I’m not saying to arrest them or ruin their lives – I’m debating the sentiment on here that it’s perfectly alright to do whatever you want around them. And my main point is that you have no idea if that’s true or not, but since you have no real information about the risks it poses, you default to your stance of accepting something illegal (which is exactly what that was).

    That’s all – thanks

  • Scott M.

    Shot I took last week.

  • Scott M.

    Can’t get photo to load

  • Scott M.

    You know, after watching the video again, they got stupid close on purpose. The whales looked a little startled. Luckily no one got hurt.

  • Joy Herrin

    So,how many of you speak spanish and actually understand when he says theres two whales and they are in the path to crash into one but he does nothing to avoid it. I love whales too. I understand it must be magical. The creature must be respected and protected above all illusions of a conection with it.

  • Todd Beltz

    Not sure why others are saying what they did was “illegal”. They didn’t approach the whales. They were out kayaking and were keeping a safe distance. If you watch the video it was the whales that came over to see what they were doing. Not the other way around. They were curious. I think that the father handled the situation very well. Once lifted up out of the water, he didn’t use his paddle to hit the whale, didn’t touch the whale at all, or do anything else considered to be illegal or irresponsible as the original poster put it. If people are going to be so uptight about protecting the species than there should be an outright ban on anyone going in the water whenever whales are in the area. That way, no laws are broken, the whales stay safe and everyone goes home happy.

  • marc

    oh no there was a shark attack at this beach…close the beach forever and make it illegal to enter the water heer is what you would say. luckily it doesn’t require a lot of time to say stay the hell out of my business if i’m not hurting you. and if someone has to rescue someone from something… luckily there is someone there to rescue them or at least try but that is a different subject.

  • hooby

    That made a lot of sense. Thanks!