Lutz couple has a 'whale' of a tale to tell - WNCT

Lutz couple has a 'whale' of a tale to tell

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LUTZ, FL (WFLA) -

Rich Howard has loved the ocean since he was a little kid. He became a certified scuba diver at age 13, and started taking underwater photographs in his 20's.

"Ever since I was 5 or 6 years old and got my first book from Jacques Cousteau, I've just loved the ocean ever since," he said.

It's a love he shares with his wife, Laura. So the couple decided to take a scuba diving trip to  La Paz, Mexico to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.

One dive took them to see a colony of sea lions. The Howards said they'd been diving and playing with the friendly animals for about 25 minutes, when the dive master told them the trip was over and they needed to get back on their boat.

Both Laura and Rich were a little frustrated their dive had been cut short. But that feeling quickly changed when they saw 4-5 foot dorsal fins breaking the surface of the water and heading straight towards them.

"I didn't think killer whales. I thought, oh, it's going to be a humpback, it's going to be a sperm whale, something that we'll see from a distance," Laura Howard said.

But it was a pod of 20 killer whales. The massive mammals started following the fast moving boat, jumping, flipping and playing in the boat's wake.

"It was amazing to see them because they were 6-8 inches off the back of the boat. Every time they'd come up for a breath of air, they'd spray you," said Rich.

This time it was Laura's turn to be the photographer. She had recently purchased a flip camera with a water-proof case. You can hear her cheering the whales on while she recorded about an hour of video.

"They were spinning, jumping," she said. "One of them really stuck with us the longest and would flip on their side and literally look up at me."

The couple said they're glad their dive got cut short, because the whales gave them a memory that will last a lifetime.

"It's really something that reminds me of this wonderful experience that we were so blessed and lucky to have happen to us," Laura said.

The Howards said they were told this is a very unusual experience. The pod of whales has been spotted by locals several times in the last decade, but no one remembers them playing in the wake of a boat.

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