Picture yourself paddling along some tranquil waters when, out of nowhere, you're surrounded by whales. While they are known for mostly being gentle giants, the thrill of coming so close to some of the largest animals in the world can be overwhelming. This happened to Mariana Gioielli and Paolo Osta while they were practicing stand paddling near their hometown of Puerto Madryn, in the Argentine Patagonia.
The now-viral video shows the couple swarmed by Southern right whales. “There's three of them, stay calm,” an excited Gioielli, who recorded the video, is heard saying. Meanwhile, Osta looks concerned, as he hopes the whales won't knock them off the paddle. “It's right under us,” the woman cheerfully warns seconds before one of the mammals breaks the surface with a loud noise just a couple feet away from them.
A handful of additional videos show them trying to stay very still as the whales first approach them. “Hi, beautiful, gorgeous,” the woman greets one of the mammals. Throughout the footage, Gioielli continues to laugh nervously. She balances her desire to flee the scene and the awe of being so close to the whales, all while pleading with everyone present—human and animal—to remain calm. Despite being only inches away, they both felt it was best not to touch them.
With a nervous smile, Osta begins paddling away, but the playful whales continue to surround them, even elevating their tails right next to the board. The man says, “I want to get out of here.” Meanwhile, the woman seems to be making the most of the additional company: “Easy, easy… Look at its eye!”
As the couple carefully makes their escape, one of the whales raises its flipper, as if waving goodbye—or maybe apologizing for scaring them. The woman laughs, and adds to her anxious partner, “Yeah, sure, you've caught rhythm, but look! It's coming… With the belly up.” In the end, they made it safely to shore, having experienced a once-in-a-lifetime whale sighting.
While the videos have recently gained traction, the footage was originally taken on August 31, 2022 in the waters of Golfo Nuevo. Looking back at the experience, Osta has described it as a gift from the universe. “It was amazing to live that experience,” he said.
From June through December, the Southern right whales breed and socialize in the area near Puerto Madryn. That's why, every year, whale aficionados make their way to the region. They all carry hopes of getting a glimpse of these creatures, as the crystal clear waters double as windows to these fascinating creatures. That's why Osta is really happy about the viral status of the videos, which he refuses to sell despite having over 200 offers. Ultimately, he just wants to boost the image of such a magical place. “I want the whole city to benefit from this publicity,” he added. “I love my city, I live here.”