'No time for fear': South African man swallowed alive by whale, then spat out

There's a biblical tale about a man called Jonah who gets swallowed by a whale - and now there's a modern-day update.

A South African diver was half way down his whale's throat when, much to his relief, it spat him out - and the whole thing was captured on camera. 

Rainer Schimpf, a 51-year-old photographer and dive tour operator, was caught in a terrifying situation while photographing whales, sharks and birds feeding.

"It got dark. I felt some pressure on my hip, and I instantly knew a whale had grabbed me," he told 7 News.

"There is no time for fear in a situation like that; you have to use your instinct."

An incredible series of photographs shows the man hanging halfway out of the gigantic whale's mouth.

Mr Schimpf instantly held his breath, fearing the whale would dive down holding him and then spit him out far below the ocean's surface.

Luckily, the whale clearly sensed something was off.

"The next moment I felt the whale was turning either way, and the pressure was released and I was washed out of the mouth," Mr Schimpf told 7 News.

"I came back up onto the surface where surely I wasn't looking too clever."