It was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time: Photographer Robyn Malcolm was on a whale-watching trip near Eden, New South Wales, when the boat came close to a pod of whales enjoying a feeding frenzy. Amid the chaos, one clever seal scored prime real estate on the back of a whale to get closer to the fish—and Malcolm got a photo of it.
The scene was so busy, Malcolm didn't even realize she had captured the incredible image until later. "We'd seen some amazing whales coming out of the water, everything was happening so quickly,” Malcolm told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was when I went back through the photos that I realized I had actually captured the seal on top of the whale."
Early fall is the best time for whale watching; there's an increase of the animals feeding and resting before heading back to Antarctica for the winter. Humpbacks are known for pushing fish into tight 'bait balls' making the fish easier to catch. The hitchhiking seal was taking advantage of this by riding straight into the thick of it.
While this behavior might seem unusual, it's not the first time a seal has been spotted using a whale as a vehicle. "The only other time was a seal trying to get away from a killer whale ... the seal hopped on the back of the pectoral fins of a humpback whale," NSW National Parks and Wildlife whale expert Geoff Ross told the newspaper.
[h/t: Sydney Morning Herald]