Humpback whales are among the most beautiful and gentle creatures on the planet. They are among the largest creatures on land or in the ocean, smaller than only a few other whale species. They are also among the most intelligent creatures to have ever lived. As recently as 100,000 years ago, humpbacks were even more intelligent than the ancestors of humans. Tonga is one of the few places on earth where people can get in the water with humpback whales. Although there are strict rules about approaching the whales and it is forbidden to touch them, the whales will occasionally approach a human out of curiosity. One look into their soulful eyes will tell you that these are magnificent creatures, full of understanding. We have long wondered how a humpback instinctively knows that they are capable of injuring a human if they strike or bump one with any force. Their massive bodies dwarf our own and they are powerful animals. Yet, they never harm humans and there are many cases of whales intentionally showing their gentle side by avoiding contact that would inflict injury. This very lucky swimmer had slipped into the water near a playful male humpback, hoping for a close look and a few photographs. The whale slowly moved in her direction, rising beneath her in slow motion. It repeatedly rolled on its back, exposing its underside and swimming close to her. This encounter went on for a full 18 minutes before the guide ended the swim so that the whale could enjoy a quiet rest. The numbers of people and the length of interaction are carefully monitored to ensure that the whales are not disturbed. Humpback whales come to Tonga to give birth and to breed. These waters are free of sharks and orcas that prey on the whales, especially during vulnerable times. Often, male humpbacks will escort or accompany the females for several weeks after they give birth. This offers the females and their young a level of protection, and it possibly provides the male with an opportunity to breed when the female is ready. It is unfortunate that these beautiful and gentle animals are still hunted in the waters around many countries. To lose them forever would be an unimaginable tragedy.