Paco Jimenez Franco has spent the last two decades as a captain for whale watching in Ojo de Liebre, a lagoon situated on the Pacific coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. During this time, Franco has been fortunate enough to witness the breathtaking sight of these magnificent creatures up close. Franco considers these sightings to be a gift, and he has discovered a unique way to express his gratitude. On occasion, when whales come near Franco’s boat, he has observed that some of them have whale lice, which are parasites that commonly attach themselves to various parts of a whale’s body.
While it is not clear if these lice cause discomfort to the whales, some believe that the whales’ breaching behavior may be an attempt to get rid of these unwanted hitchhikers. Suspecting this to be the case, Franco decided to pluck some lice off one whale that came too close to his boat. As it turned out, his theory was correct.
According to Franco, “Once I removed the first one, she approached again so that I could continue to do so.”
Ever since that incident, the whale that Franco had helped has been a frequent visitor to his boat for more lice removal sessions. When she approaches, the whale lifts her head out of the water, allowing Franco to clean her thoroughly. Franco shared, “I have done it repeatedly, with the same whale and others. It is very exciting for me.”
Watch the moment here:
Touching whales is generally prohibited in many parts of the world. However, in specific areas along the coast of Baja California, it is said to be allowed in cases where the whale initiates the interaction, as was the case with Franco and the whale he helped.
Franco’s interactions with the whales have only increased his admiration for these magnificent creatures, as they have selected him as a trusted “cleaner.”
“I have learned, by seeing their behavior, that there is a certain nobility in them,” he told THE DODO. “They’re incredible.”