Whale swims within a few feet of boat
A dolphin tour group received a whale of an upgrade off the Kona Coast of the Big Island Wednesday.
Michael "China" Yee, owner of dolphin swim tour company SunLight on Water, said everyone had just climbed out of the water when a humpback whale approached.
Yee said he never felt they were in danger.
"Those guys are so gentle and so aware of your presence," Yee said. He added that he has seen this humpback many times over the past 15 years or so and that his friend had a name for it.
"He called her Juanita, and the reason is she comes right over to the boat and does these kind of amazing flamingo dances underwater, right under the boat."
Those on the boat say she danced around them for about a half hour.
"On the second pass was when she made that dramatic tail wave to us and I happened to be very, very close," said Roland Kleger, who was within a few feet of the whale. He too, said he never felt scared, despite all the recent run-ins in Hawaiian waters.
At least five incidents involving humpbacks and boats have been reported so far this year, the same number as all of 2012.
Experts say last week's whale count was up, but close to average, following a slow start to the season.
Scientists said the increase in encounters is likely because there are more ocean users, more cameras and more public awareness. Plus, the peak of Hawaii's whale season is late January to early February.
"There's not a better place on the planet to be in the winter months," Yee said.
Federal law prohibits all ocean users from approaching within 100 yards of a humpback. If the whale approaches you, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asks that you remain still and let it pass. If you're in a motorized vessel, put your engine in neutral.
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