03 December 2012

Hervey Bay - Whale Watching

Hervey Bay is officially known as the whale watching capital of Australia, if not the world. This is so in part because it offers the world's closest whale watching encounters with the Humpback whales. Therefore, whale watching is a must do activity while we are at Hervey Bay.

There are several whale watching tour companies with various type of boats to choose from. A smaller boat or a yacht would have given us a different perspective of the whales, up close and personal. However, we opted for the Spirit of Hervey Bay. We thought it safer as we are going out to sea to see one of the largest sea mammals on earth. Also, we felt that the size of the boat might minimise the effects of motion sickness. As an added precaution, taking sea-sickness tablets before boarding the boat to sea is highly recommended for those more prone to motion sickness.

The humpback whale is the fifth largest of the great whales. Their large front flippers can reach a length of 5 metres, about one-third of their entire body length! They are named humpbacks because of the distinct ‘hump' that shows as the whale arches its back when it dives.

During the southern hemisphere winter and spring months, southern humpback whales migrate from the Antarctica to the sub-tropical coastal waters of western and eastern Australia and to Fiji to give birth and to mate.

Each year at least 1200 humpbacks migrate 5000km to the eastern coast of Australia. It is one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom. Whale 'pods' start to arrive at the southern Great Barrier Reef in mid-June and in the following weeks they move further along the Great Barrier Reef concentrating in the southern Whitsundays area. On the southern migration back to Antarctic waters, a large proportion of the whales stop over for a few days in Hervey Bay. Most humpbacks however, will have left the Queensland coast by the beginning of November.

That being said, the official whale watching season in Hervey Bay starts in July every year. Over the weeks that follow the Humpback whales arrive in their hundreds so spend a relaxing time in Hervey Bay, taking advantage of the safe sheltered waters in Platypus Bay on the inshore side of Fraser Island. For more on the whales of Hervey Bay, click here.

The photos above shows the mother whale teaching its baby how to communicate; the breach, roll, flipper slapping, tail slapping and whale song.

Here's another interesting bit of information. Although similar migrations of the same species occur in the northern and southern hemispheres, the two populations never interbreed, even where they use the same equatorial breeding waters, because the northward and southward convergences on tropical waters occur six months apart. Whereas most migrating whales avoid land masses, the Humpbacks follow the coastline reasonably close to shore, which makes them an ideal.

The above photo on the right shows the mouth of a whale was taken by one of the boat crew. It's one of the up close and personal photo of a whale, next to the boat.

The following are some 2 - 3 minutes video of the humpback whales in action. Take note, you will hear the winds blowing and the cheers of the crowd watching.

Front flipper slapping.

Tail slapping and the enthusiasm of the baby whale learning this communication mode.

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