Maybe it’s the soothing Hans Zimmer soundtrack playing in the background, but I don’t think I’ve seen a more intimate moment between a shark and human than what you’re about to see. The video captures a beautiful interaction between a whale shark and a jet ski instructor along Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia.

The encounter is even more remarkable when you consider this whale shark approached the diver, Francesco Mercuri – a jet ski instructor, who dons her snorkel gear when it’s clear the majestic fish wants to get to know her.

A Friendly Whale Shark…

Friendly indeed. The video shows the large fish approach the jet ski and come close enough to pet it on the snout. Kudos to Mercuri because she doesn’t do that – a more respectable gesture than what many people would do. But it’s an affectionate whale shark, if there is such a thing, because it lingers, and prolongs the encounter, and even appears to nudge the jet ski in an act of bonding.

Then, when it’s clear the animal wants to prolong the encounter, she enters the water and swims with it at a distance.

She Did It Right

This encounter is a major contrast to a video that surfaced earlier this year, in which two boaters (both of whom should be nominated for Darwin Award of the Year) felt it was perfectly appropriate to stand on a whale shark’s back and use it as a giant surfboard. That video sparked much anger across the planet, with calls for the men to be prosecuted.

To my knowledge, they’ve yet to be identified. But this leads me to why I think Mercuri deserves praise for her actions:

Whale_Shark_Francesco_MercuriThe Shark Approached HER – We’ve seen so many examples of people seeking ‘intimate moments’ with wildlife. That rarely ends well, and authorities will tell you that wildlife harassment is a major problem. But there was no harassment here – and it was the shark that initiated the amazing encounter

She Showed Restraint – She had every opportunity to pet the animal. Many people would have, like Ocean Ramsey’s cageless dive with a great white shark off Guadalupe, which I admired, but felt was a little inappropriate. Mercuri didn’t cross that boundary, and only dived with the shark when she had its green light.

She Kept a Distance – Once in the water, she showed respect for the beautiful whale shark by staying at a distance. She took a selfie, sure – but that’s fine. She didn’t harass this majestic creature, and shows us all how to gracefully accept those fleeting moments that make life worth living.

Watch and enjoy!