I HAVE seen a whale. I have. Not a little one, not in an aquarium and not on the telly. But an 80 foot, enormous humpback whale.

And not just one humpback whale but three. Yes three, swimming free and throwing themselves about in the Atlantic one mile off of the beach I was on. Well, not actually ‘on’ but standing on the balcony of my hotel room that fronted said beach. And ‘said’ beach was in the Island of Sal in the Cape Verde Islands.

They weren’t meant to be there, it’s not their migration time, and, apparently, they normally travel on the other side of the Cape Verde Islands. But these three were obviously taking a little detour, having a swim around, eyeing up the tourists and checking out the fishing. Luckily for us.

The first I knew of their appearance was when our friend spotted them and shouted for us to look. I screamed – literally – and we stood pointing, crying and shouting “look”, “there they are”, “They’re jumping”, and “Oh my Lord”, for the next hour.

It was as if they were waving when they breached out of the sea, their enormous white fins looking like wings. One lifted itself up from the sea and threw itself over.

The splash was as if a tower block had been dropped into the water.

They seemed to be playing, just seeing how high they could jump.

Every time we thought they had left the area we would suddenly spot their enormous spout of water, which must have gone 40 foot into the air, and the screaming would recommence. I can’t remember another time when I was so excited and I still haven’t got over it.

There is just something magical about the sea. I swim in the sea at every chance I can – whether it be the beautiful turquoise seas surrounding the Cape Verde Islands or the slightly gloomier estuary water at Shoeburyness. Yes really.

The oceans are a world much bigger than ours, of which we still don’t knowwhat lies at the bottom.

And, I love it that the creatures there don’t know – or care – that we even exist. We scream when we catch a glimpse of these amazing animals but I doubt any of them go “wow, we saw a human walking in the water, amazing”. Mmmm.

Possibly not.

So, what is it that makes a sight of a Humpback whale so incredibly special? Well, one reason may be that there are only about 15,000 left in the world, thanks to man’s cruel hunting, so it’s not that easy to ever actually see one in the wild. But the other reason must be that we know these are incredibly intelligent mammals. Enormous, but totally hidden in their world, they travel through the seas withamight and ease that we can onlymarvel at.

We’d been slightly nervous about our holiday. Well, we’d talked our friends into going with us to the Riu Funana Hotel in Sal, where we’d stayed last year – a first ever for us. We were hoping they would enjoy it as much as we had. But, would the food be as good as before? The people as nice? The weather as great?

The beach as golden? It was all down to us and our recommendation. We needn’t have worried.

Everywhere was exceptional, as before, but it all paled into insignificance when we saw the whales.

I don’t just feel incredibly lucky, but incredibly honoured, to have seen these magnificent animals in their own habitat. I, like many others, had cried when some whales had beached themselves on our shores quite recently. So many people had tried to help them and it was so sad to see these majestic creatures laying dying.

I cried again when I saw them, this time in all their glory. I just pray that they survive for others to enjoy the same amazing experience.

I’ve seen a whale!