It's been a good year for sightings of animals riding other animals ... and it's not over yet. An "adrenaline-hungry" sea lion was recently spotted hitching a short ride on a gray whale off the coast of Mexico. Uploaded to the Whale of a Time YouTube channel, the cetacean-riding sea lion was met with jubilant cheers from tourists watching from a nearby boat. 

Although the video title claims that this whale-surfer is a seal, the body shape and external ear flaps suggest that it's more than likely a California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) ... who appears to have been cruising just in the right place at the right time to be buoyed briefly out of the water by the surfacing whale.

"Interspecies play involving whales is not unheard of," explains whale scientist Dr Joy Reidenberg. "But catching it on film is amazing. It is delightful to see. I think it is on purpose, not accidental!"

Simon Elwen, a PhD Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute adds: that seals [and sea lions] "often follow or 'bowride' whales as dolphins do, playing around and possibly taking advantage of prey-fish moving out of the path of the whale."

The incident took place off the Baja California Peninsula, where tourists flock for close encounters with the area's famously "friendly" gray whales. As tempting as it may be to pet a wild whale, this is illegal in some countries (including the U.S.). Organisations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) strongly advise against getting too close to marine mammals like whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals or sea lions.

"Touching the whales is particularly common in Baja, where the whales are habituated to humans, particularly in the protected lagoons that are wildlife sanctuaries," says Reidenberg. "Interestingly, I have even seen mother whales pushing their calves up to the boat. [But] the vessel operators there are very good about keeping people from harassing the whales."


Header image: Pat