Whale Watching

Whale Watching in Byron Bay

We only told Dani it was a boat trip. Thinking he would be too excited if we told him what we might see. It turns out we could have just told him straight. He took it all in his stride.

Whale Watching Trips

There are plenty of places along the east coast of Australia where you can go whale watching. Ever year from June to August, thousands of Humpback whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic waters, up the east coast to the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef .We didn’t have to come this far north to do this but it seemed like a great place to give it a go. And we weren’t disappointed.

There were seven tourists on the boat plus three crew. A small rigged dinghy that can easily get as close to the whales as you are officially allowed – which is 100 metres by law. But nobody can stop the whales from getting closer if they are inquisitive enough.

Spotting them…

The tours give a whale sighting guarantee but I thought that may mean only seeing them from far off. Sure enough, at first, we saw them only from a distance. The blow holes creating a puff of water is usually the first sign of their presence in the distance. Then you see their bodies rising in and out of the water. After a few breathing manoeuvres you can see the famous tail flip up as they dive under. It’s something I had seen a thousand times on wild-life programmes on TV and there it was, right in front of our eyes. But still fairly distant. I was beginning to think the “whale guarantee” was not all it seemed.

Then it went quiet for a while. The whales move northward so it is not worth following them too far from the tour zone. Soon enough – if you are lucky – more will come from the south. And sure enough they did. With a bit of quick boat handling we were close to another group, and then another. Then it was quiet again.

Classic tail flip
And another…but still fairly distant
And another…this time a little closer.

Breaching Whales

One of the other eagle-eyed passengers spotted a whale right ahead about 200 metres or so. The captain hit the gas and after a choppy little ride getting covered in seawater spray, we hit the jackpot. There were three of them and they were playing.

The sight everyone wants to see is when the whale launches itself out of the water to come crashing back down with an almighty splash. ‘Breaching’ is the technical term. But you can call it jumping or whatever you want it really doesn’t matter. Because seeing it right in front of you is just incredible.

Whale starts to breach
Rising out of the water
The breaching whale starts to fall back into the sea
Then crashes back into the sea

Pectoral fins

Another classic sight most people will have seen on TV is the whale raising one of their pectoral fins and slapping it on the surface. They duly obliged, just like in the movies (so to speak).

Pectoral fin wave
Pectoral fin splash

Following Us

At one point a couple of whales were right behind the boat and followed us for a short time.

Two whales following the boat
Then came alongside…

For a short period one whale decided to have a look at us. A close up of the same whale’s upper body reveals many scratches and scars. In fact the only thing we never got to do was touch one, which can happen if the whale is curious enough to come right up to the boat.

Keeping an eye on us…
Scars on back of whale

The whole trip lasted about two and a half hours. The kid loved it. And so did Dani. He wants to do it again. I would recommend this kind of trip to anyone who is in New South Wales during the winter.

I do wonder now; what will Dani want to do over the next few years? After about 40 years or more of wanting to see this wildlife spectacle it finally happened for me. My son got to do it in only his 7th year.

Record Numbers

I also read recently that there have been record numbers of whales spotted on the migration route this year. Their numbers are certainly increasing which is great news of course. That got me thinking about their destination – Hervey Bay in Queensland. The sea in that area must be bubbling with whales? Like boiling water. That could be another great trip in the future…

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