Blainville's beaked whales, which look like obese spinner dolphins, are normally very elusive, but when Denning jumped in the water with her camera, the pair stuck around for about 25 minutes. She even captured four minutes of up close and personal video footage with them, above.
"Typically, they are very shy," Denning told local station KITV. "You might see them for a few minutes, then they disappear."
Luckily for her (and us), these two wanted to play.
Denning told the Big Island's West Hawaii Today newspaper that she made eye contact multiple times with the whales and even communicated with one by slapping her fins on the water in response to its tail slaps.
Blainville's beaked whales can be as long as 20 feet and weigh as much as 2,300 pounds. They live in tropical waters worldwide, but often spend most of their time at deep depths, where they hunt for squid and small fish.
Because they swim so deep -- they've been known to dive seven times deeper than humpbacks -- Blainville's beaked whales are difficult to observe.
Biologist Robin Baird of the Cascadia Research Collective has been documenting these and other whales for years. He estimated that on average, researchers might have .75 sightings of a Blainville's beaked whale for every 100 hours of observation. For comparison, sightings of the common short-finned pilot whale rate about 8.33 per 100 hours.
“These guys are very stealthy,” Whitlow Au, a chief scientist at the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, told HuffPost. “You’ve got to look hard to find them.”
As a result, Blainville's beaked whales are somewhat of a mystery: Scientists don’t know how many there are, or what their life span is.
Denning knows how lucky her chance encounter was, telling KITV that it was a "really neat and beautiful experience."
Au was even more excited about it: "The video was amazing!" he told HuffPost.
We couldn't agree more.