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It's behind you! Hilarious moment sneaky whale pops up behind sightseers as they look the wrong way 

A group of whale watchers nearly missed the moment of a lifetime when a sneaky whale popped up right behind their boat - as they looked in the opposite direction.

The group were pictured waiting patiently with their cameras poised, but very nearly missed the spectacular encounter by looking the wrong way while the whale surfaced a matter of feet away from their boat. 

Fortunately, the sightseers turned around in their boat just in the nick of time to spot the huge humpback whale, before she disappeared back into the ocean's depths, sparking scenes of celebration on the skiff.

Photos taken from another vessel show the stealthy whale poking its rostrum out from beneath the water as the group face forward, pointing their cameras at the open ocean ahead of them in anticipation (pictured)

But before the creature could disappear into the sea again, the whale watchers spotted her at the last second, with a second photograph showing their jubilation at the close encounter (pictured)

Fortunately, the sightseers turned around in their boat just in the nick of time to spot the huge humpback whale a matter of feet away from them, before she disappeared back under the water

Photos taken from another vessel show the stealthy whale poking its rostrum out from beneath the water as the group face forward, pointing their cameras at the open ocean ahead of them in anticipation.

But before the creature could disappear into the sea again, the whale watchers spotted her at the last second, with a second photograph showing their jubilation at the close encounter.

One woman standing on the boat is shown throwing her arms into the air to celebrate, while the other sightseers sit open mouthed in surprise and click away on their cameras. 

The whale watchers' near-miss was captured by director and photographer, Eric J Smith during a trip to San Ignacio Lagoon, in Baja California Peninsula, Mexico

Pictured: Two boats of whale watchers have a close encounter with the sperm whale off the coast of Baja, Mexico 

Smith, a 49-year-old from Los Angeles, said the whale 'slowly and silently stuck her head high above the water to look around. I was in another panga a few dozen feet away and caught the moment right before everyone realized she was so close.'

The whale watchers' near-miss was captured by director and photographer, Eric J Smith during a trip to San Ignacio Lagoon, in Baja California Peninsula, Mexico.

The 49-year-old from Los Angeles, said: 'She slowly and silently stuck her head high above the water to look around. I was in another panga a few dozen feet away and caught the moment right before everyone realized she was so close.

'When everyone turned around, she quickly sank below the surface. Cheering and hysterical laughter ensued.

'Whale photography involves a lot of luck, but the key is to always be on alert and ready. On a whale watching voyage, it is easy to get complacent because there is a lot of waiting. It seems like the moment you let your guard down a spectacular breach occurs.'   

Pictured: A close-up of a humpback whale off the coast of Mexico. The species are found in oceans all over the world, and typically migrate up to 16,000 miles. They are known for breaching the surface, making them popular among whale watchers

Like other large whales, humpbacks were once the target of the whaling industry which nearly hunted them until extinction. A worldwide moratorium in 1966 outlawed hunting, and their numbers have partially recovered since

Pictured: One of the whale watchers pats a humpback whale from a sightseeing boat off the coast of Mexico

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