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'I don't think I had a whale of a time:' Man nearly swallowed by whale lives to tell the tale

Rainer Schimpf was taking footage of a sardine run when a 15 ton whale grabbed him.

A South African man has a whale of a tale to tell after he was almost swallowed by a Bryde's Whale. 

Rainer Schimpf was near Port Elizabeth Harbor, South Africa shooting footage of a sardine run when the incident occurred. During sardine runs, animals like gannets, penguins, seals, dolphins, whales and sharks gather together to collect sardines. It's the biggest migration in the Southern hemisphere.

Schimpf was more focused on the sharks surrounding him as he was filming in the water, but it was a whale that ended up gobbling him up.

"I felt some pressure on my hip and once I felt the pressure I knew a whale had grabbed me," Schimpf told Barcroft Animals in a video.  "There is no time for fear in a situation like that. You have to use your instinct." 

Schimpf held his breath inside the whale's mouth, afraid that the whale would dive and release him deep underwater. Luckily, the whale quickly realized Schimpf was not a sardine and spat him out. 

Bryde's Whales can grow to weigh 15-20 tons, and just being bumped by a flipper could cause serious injury to humans. 

"I guess for the whale it was also scary!" Claudia Weber-Gebert, who witnessed the incident, told Barcroft Animals. She explained that whales do not eat humans, it probably grabbed Schimpf by accident. As the whale surfaces and opens its mouth, it has trouble seeing what's directly in front of it.

 "They are gentle giants," she said.

Schimpf survived without a bruise on his body, and was back in the water minutes later, according to NBC's TODAY Show

The whole ordeal put things into perspective for Schimpf. "Once you're grabbed by something that's 15 tonnes heavy and very fast in the water, you realize you're actually only that small in the middle of the ocean,"  he said in an interview with Sky News.

It may not have been a whale of a time, but Schimpf still jokes about the experience. 

"I now have the inside knowledge of a whale that nobody else has!" he said.

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