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In the Bible story Jonah goes against God's will and is swallowed whole by a whale in a storm - but is returned to the land unscathed when he repents his sins.

A South African tour operator who was nearly swallowed by a whale says the experience has made him realise just how small humans are.

"There was no time for fear or any emotion", he told The Telegraph.

"I knew instantly what had happened".

The tour operator takes tourists on a once in a lifetime whale watching in Algoa Bay.

Schimpf had been snorkelling with two colleagues off the coast of Port Elizabeth.

Bryde's whales are known to dive up to 1,000 feet, which is why he held his breath.

"The next moment it got dark, and I felt pressure on my hip".

He told MyPE that he "felt the pressure increase around the waist, which is when I guess the whale realised his mistake as he turned sideways, opened his mouth slightly to release me and I was washed out, together with what felt like tons of water".

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Heinz Toperczer, another photographer who was on a nearby boat, managed to capture the terrifying moments.

"Whales are no man-eaters - so this was really an accident, they are gentle giants", Schimpf said.

Incredibly, the experience barely knocked the wind out of him, and after checking he had no injuries, he dived back into the water in search of the bait ball.

"This is the most different looking killer whale I've ever seen", said Robert Pitman, an NOAA marine ecologist in San Diego.

Bryde's whales are close relatives of humpbacks and blue whales, and have been documented growing to over 15 metres in length.

"Seconds decide if you become prey, seconds decide your survival and seconds are all that counts".

Schimpf said he feels "privileged" to have experienced something so rare, but he hopes it doesn't happen again.

The diver and witnesses to the incident believe the whale was just as surprised to find a man in it's mouth.

Their diet consists of krill, copepods, red crabs, shrimp, as well as a variety of schooling fishes, such as herring, mackerel, pilchards, and sardines, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.