Incredible images of freediving with sperm whales

Up close with the world’s most amazing sea creatures. Get lost in this undersea photo collection.
By Alison Mann

Diving in the Indian Ocean gave French freediver Alex Roubaud the enviable experience of swimming with a family of sperm whales. Luckily Alex is also a top photographer sand took some incredible shots so that we can all check out the magical moment.

More: How they got the shot with big, scary animals

Alex Roubaud shot this sperm whale around Mauritius

A sperm whale moves slowly in the Indian Ocean
Taking it easy © Alexandre Roubaud

Roubaud is currently based in Mauritius – his wife Pamela is Mauritian, so he has often visited the area. The chance to spend a lot of time swimming and learning about sperm whales led them to spend more time exploring – and they are definitely getting the experience they craved.

A video of Alex freediving with the whales

Alex says: “Mauritius and Réunion are great spots for freedivers, as the Mascarene Islands welcome whales and sperm whales during their reproduction cycles, there are also lots of dolphins and sharks.”

During the freedive, there were 30 sperm whales like this one all around

A huge sperm whale in the Indian Ocean
A huge sperm whale in the Indian Ocean © Alexandre Roubaud

During one dive he got particularly close to the sperm whales, and took these atmospheric pictures.

He adds: “These pictures were taken during a very special and lucky dive, it was not the first time that I had dived with them, but it was the first time there were so many individuals, about 30, and they were so friendly.

“When we arrived they were sleeping vertically at 5m depth and we started to slowly freedive along their body. It was a really cool experience, they looked so quiet, peaceful and beautiful. After a moment they woke up and started to play together and with us for more than two hours.”

The biggest sperm whales can reach 20m in length

A diver admires a sperm whale
A diver admires a spermwhale © Alexandre Roubaud

As the sperm whales adapted to their presence they relaxed and Alex and Pamela witnessed an experience saved only for those who are willing to put time in with the whales.

Alex Roubaud was just 80cm away from the animals

Sperm whale in the Indian Ocean
Sperm whale in the Indian Ocean © Alexandre Roubaud

“The most magical moment was when an adult accompanied by two younger sperm whales started turning around each other, they started scratching their mates, playing happily together,” says Alex.

“I had the chance to be really close, about 80cm from them, at that moment they really decided to stay with me as we swam along for a moment,” he adds.

The most magical moment was when an adult accompanied by two younger sperm whales started turning around each other

Playful sperm whales in the Indian Ocean
Playful sperm whales in the Indian Ocean © Alexandre Roubaud

Alex often freedives with fellow French diver Alex Voyer, they have been diving together for 15 years. They take shots from all over the world, and Alex Voyer has been busy snapping dolphins in the Egyptian sea.

The dive at Satya Lagoon is also well known for the interactions divers receive from the wild dolphins.

Freediving with dolphins in Egypt
Diving with a graceful dolphin © Alex Voyer

Voyer was teaching a freediving course in the Red Sea with his girlfriend and fellow freediver, Marianne Aventurier. The dive at Satya Lagoon is well known for the interactions divers receive from the wild dolphins using the spot to rest, while accepting the presence of man.

Yes, you can see a lot of dolphins...

Freediving with dolphins in Egypt
Joining in the party © Alex Voyer

Voyer explains their first dive: “The bell rings at 5:30am, the dolphins are there at the foot of the boat. At 6:00am we are going in the water with a pod of about a hundred dolphins, just for us. The majority of the dolphins seem to sleep and are easy to follow. Once awakened these animals are playful and even seem interested in us.” 

As tourist boats began to arrive, he noticed the dolphins getting less cooperative.

And yes, you can also swim with turtles...

Freediving with a turtle in Egypt
Wonder who won that race? © Alex Voyer

Voyer added that he loves swimming with sea creatures and is keen to pass on this passion, but also wants to pass on his deep respect for the ocean. “Swimming with dolphins or to meet other marine animals, remains the dream of many divers and snorkelers. It is our responsibility not to take it to excess if we want to keep healthy oceans.”

Freediving is the best way to interact with such animals

Freediving in Egypt
Freediving in the Red Sea © Alex Voyer

Roubaud adds that each freediving experience is totally unique and a great way to enjoy marine animals. 

He says: “Freediving is a better way to interact with them, maybe more quiet and less aggressive than scuba diving. It's really interesting to notice that humans are not so different from dolphins and whales when we look at the physiological adaptation of  holding one's breath during diving.”

read more about
Next Story