If you think these belugas are enjoying themselves, you’re probably right. “They are very curious and playful,” says Hiroya Minakuchi, who shot the series inside the whales’ tank at Japan’s Shimane Aquarium. They’re so curious, in fact, that while one individual posed for the camera, two others got up close and personal with the photographer, lightly biting and pulling on his regulator hose and flipper, even once nibbling his arm.
Like dolphins, belugas play, tossing and retrieving floats and balls and other objects. But both types of cetaceans can create their own fun—for example, by making bubble rings out of air expelled from their blowholes or mouths. Belugas are one of the few whales that can manipulate their lips, according to Patricia Dove, senior animal care specialist at the Georgia Aquarium, enabling them to form their exhalations into doughnutlike shapes.
Read more about these incredible creatures in Julie Leibach's article in the July-August issue of Audubon.