Whale Watching and Other Aussie Pastimes
The migration of the humpback whale is something of a tourist mecca here in Australia. As the beautiful creatures make their way south from the Great Barrier Reef towards the cool waters of the Antarctic, tourists and locals alike crowd beaches and board boats to catch a glimpse of the massive mammals and their newly born calves.
It is, up until very recently, an Australian pastime I’ve somehow managed to avoid. Like a weekend in Melbourne or the spectacle that is a game of Aussie Rules played in front of a packed house – there are still more than a few typically Aussie experiences that I need to check off.
Recently I was chilling out at beautiful Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort on Moreton Island and the opportunity presented itself to take part in one of the last whale watching tours of the season. With summer approaching and the majority of humpbacks already enjoying the cold waters in the south, only the stragglers remained off the coast.
Courtesy of my boy Ben’s employment on the island I got to take part in the tour for half price, but even the full price of $110 for a tour from the mainland and a day on the island isn’t a bad deal. If you’re staying on the resort for a longer amount of time, the tour runs a bit cheaper again.
Me? I was much happier to pay thirty something dollars and put the rest aside for a carton of Strongbow later in the week.
I’m a man with priorities.
After being blessed with hot and sunny days for my first few days on the island, the day of my whale watching experience dawned overcast and windy.
It was still far from cold though, and I’ve been Aussie long enough to know that you still lather on the sunscreen on the overcast days. Living underneath the hole in the ozone layer breeds a certain level of caution whenever you’re outdoors.
Despite it being the second to last whale watch of the season, there were surprisingly few people on-board as we pulled away from Tangalooma’s dock and chugged our way out around the sandbar and into the increasingly choppy seas.
A cool wind whipped in at us and threatened to snatch up unsecured hats, but Ben wore his signature straw hat with sheer arrogance. As if he were daring the wind to take a run at him.
The hat stayed on his head for the entire trip.
The view along the coast of Moreton Island was almost worth the trip on its own. The towering dunes and windswept beaches provided more than a few photo opportunities as we patiently waited for our first glimpse of the main attraction.
Our complimentary lunch included cheese & crackers and a remarkably good chicken salad wrap, and we happily munched on ours over a shared can of beer as we moved farther away from the island and into the deeper waters where we would hopefully spot some playful whales.
Tangalooma boasts an astounding 80% success rate when it comes to spotting whales out on the water.
I felt quietly confident…
And sure enough, we caught our first tell-tale spray only half an hour into the trip.
Like the smoke before the fire or the thunder before a storm, that first spray of water prologued what would be a solid hour of near constant whale activity around the boat. Whether they were lazily pushing to the surface to take in air, calves pausing to feed, or more athletic displays of whalish excellence – we were barely left alone for the remainder of the trip.
At one point a particularly inquisitive calf came so close to the boat that we could have jumped out and touched it. Its mother passed under the boat seconds later and set the captain off on an excited rant. Clearly not an everyday occurence.
We saw tail slaps, breaches, and spy hops and I loved it.
I didn’t expect to be as impressed or as moved as I was by the display. Like so many things I’ve done in the past, there was initial reluctance on my part that gave way to appreciation. But being out there and seeing it all first hand made me grateful for the earlier than usual wake-up and made any short term tiredness feel entirely worth it.
How lucky we are to live in a world with such amazing natural beauty so readily available.
And how foolish we are for nearly robbing ourselves and our children of the opportunity to see them in the wild.
It may interest you to know that, prior to being a wild dolphin resort and whale watching location, Tangalooma was one of the most industrious whaling stations in the southern hemisphere.
Talk about your 180 degree turns, eh?
The entire experience was a refreshing change of pace from days spent alternately lying on the beach or perched at the bar. It was a nice dose of real travel experience amidst a sea of relaxation.
Whale watching is common across Australia between May and November, and if you’re in the area, Moreton Island’s tours are a good investment. The marine biologists onboard make sure you know exactly what is happening out in the water and the waters hold an abundance of whales that ensure you’ll get a few spectacular shots along the way.
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