Pictured: The whales once dubbed the 'devil fish' that now want tourists to tickle their tongues

By Mail Foreign Service

A whale of a time: An adult grey whale enjoys having its tongue tickled by tourists in the San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico

They were once referred to as 'devil fish' for the way they attacked whalers, but these enormous grey whales are now dubbed 'the friendliest in the world' as they rest their heads on boats and demand to be tickled.

These pictures show the 45-feet-long adult whales happily allowing their backs and tongues to be scratched.

The whales also encourage their young calves to approach boats, and if their bid to be touched goes unnoticed they swim along to more tourists in the hope of getting attention.

The playful whales even swim under boats and lift them out of the water, thrilling tourists.

Local fishermen who lead the boat tours in San Ignacio, Mexico, have become so used to living with the whales they now refer to them as 'friendlies'.

Zoologist and television presenter Mark Carwardine, 51, photographed the whales while on a trip to the Central American country.

'Seventy years ago these whales were being viciously hunted and they fought back aggressively,' Mr Carwardine said.

'They would smash boats with their tails and leap on them, so they became known locally as devil fish.'

Since the late 1930s the species has been protected and numbers have gone from just 100 - placing them at risk of extinction - to 26,000.

Showing off: Tourists marvel as a grey whale splashes about in the waters of the San Ignacio Lagoon

'They know the local fishermen are no longer a threat and have become the friendliest whales in the world,' he said.

'They come up to these small fibreglass boats, which are a few metres long, and place their chins on the side to be scratched and tickled.

'They also encourage their calves to do the same. It is very much like a dog sitting at your feet near the fire.'

'I would never normally agree with touching wildlife but these whales demand to be touched - they really enjoy it and come to you.

Mr Carwardine has travelled to the region for the past 20 years.

'People are in tears and feel overwhelmed by the experience,' he said.

The whales arrive in the lagoons in late December or early January leave around May, when they head back up to the Arctic to feed.

They make the migration, which is a 12,500 mile round-trip, every year.

The calves are weaned on the Arctic feeding grounds and are left to make their own way back to the breeding lagoons the following year.

source: dailymail