A RAINBOW Beach adventurer is still reeling from his adrenalin-filled and touching encounter with a distressed whale off Double Island Point yesterday.
Epic Ocean Adventures tour guide Tyron van Santen took his adventuring to a brave new level when he jumped from his kayak 200m offshore during a tour to help untangle a juvenile humpback whale that had breached in the middle of the group and had a fin wrapped up in rope.
The experienced tour guide, who was pointing out the already magical site of a nearby pod of dolphins to his group, says he was awe-struck when the adolescent whale appeared amongst the kayaks.
Within seconds, the 8m whale was sidling up to the kayak and starting to roll, Mr van Santen said, almost like a cat wanting to be stroked.
But as the whale's large rubbery back nudged the kayak, Mr van Santen noticed the scar lines running down the mammal, flecked with chunks of missing flesh.
And then he saw the rope.
That's when he leapt into the water to do what he could.
"It just felt like it wanted me to try and help it," he said, reliving the moment in awe.
"It just kept coming up to the kayaks. I just felt like it was seeking help."
He spent precious minutes in the water carefully releasing the rope, which was almost as long as the whale and wound around one of its dorsal fins, before coming face to face with the creature's incredible barnacle-spotted head.
"I could see its big eye looking at me - like 'hey mate'," he said.
"I felt really small."
Mr van Santen said after its fin was set free, the rope was still attached to the whale's mouth somehow.
He tugged on it, but that's when he knew it was "out of his hands".
The whale, now able to use its fin at full speed, charged at the wave break, and had the group worried it might beach itself.
Mr van Santen returned to shore and contacted Parks and Wildlife immediately, which monitored the whale from the beach for an hour before it disappeared.
Later in the afternoon Mr van Santen spotted the whale from a distance, while surfing at Rainbow Beach.
Twenty-four hours later, he has described the experience as once-in-a-lifetime.
"I've seen a lot of whales come through to check us out, but this one seemed like it was asking for help," he said.
"It was just surreal.. it was just a moment with nature. It was breathtaking.
"It was crazy. The adrenalin was flowing, that's for sure."
"I always thought they were very smart creatures, it just showed a different element yesterday. It was like it was talking to us personally for help."
Mr van Santen said his greatest concern now was that the whale was going to be alright.
He understood there had been no sighting of the whale today.
He said he hoped it would make it to Hervey Bay where it could be more easily moniroted or examined.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries issued a statement late yesterday saying the whale appeared to have become caught in commercial fishing apparatus - not shark nets.
Mr van Santen said the backpackers on the tour had been thrilled by and concerned for the whale.
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