Everyone knows whales are awesome, but when you see these photographs you’ll fall even more in love with these amazing creatures.

As you can see, these photos were taken under extraordinary circumstances. For us regular folks, the easiest and best places to view these magnificent animals are Kaikoura (New Zealand), Azores (Portugal) and Vancouver Island (Canada), especially on a whale watching Victoria BC trip. No scuba gear required!

Right WhaleCredit: Brian SkerryCredit: Brian Skerry

This photo, taken off the coast of the Auckland Islands, captures the amazing moment when a 50-ton right whale decided it needed to take a closer look at a wildlife photographer and his assistant. Many of the right whales in this region had never seen humans before, so they were very curious, not aggressive.

Humpback WhaleCredit: Marco QueralCredit: Marco Queral

This infamous photo is often associated with the story of a whale saying “thank you” after being untangled from fishing nets, but it was actually taken during a South Pacific photography expedition. According to Marco Queral, the photographer behind this photo, humpback whales have strong personalities and have to be in the right mood to let him get so close. They’re gentle by nature, but a friendly wave of a tail is potentially deadly.

Beluga WhalesCredit: Andrey NekasovCredit: Andrey Nekasov

When dive teams drilled through the icy White Sea off the northwest coast of Russia, they were greeted by two beluga whales. Underwater, the belugas gently led the diver around by taking his hands in their mouths. This might seem strange, but the White Sea is actually a whale sanctuary where formerly captive whales have been reintroduced to the wild. The whales are exceptionally curious and often swim to the surface to greet the divers.