The Queensland Winter school holidays are just around the corner and that means the majestic humpback whales are also – time to go whale watching (they don’t know about COVID-19!)
Finding fun and easy ways to entertain and engage the kids can sometimes be a challenge in the school holidays. Fortunately, Hervey Bay offers plenty of activities for you and your family. There are some quality tour operators on the Fraser Coast who have implemented COVID SAFE plans and will ensure your (and your family’s) touring experience is safe as well as enjoyable.
Of course, one of most popular activities in Hervey Bay, is Humpback Whale Watching. In the Winter school holidays, it’s near the beginning of the season. From as early as late-June we start to see these majestic giants of the sea in our sheltered warm waters in Hervey Bay.
Southern (Eastern) Humpback Whales and migration
The majestic humpback whales are some of the most gentle and humbling creatures on Earth! Adults measure up to 16m, the length of Whalesong, so you can still feel the size of this beautiful creature, whilst being on a big enough boat to not feel too worried (not that there’s anything to worry about anyway!). Did you know the average Female Adult is longer than the Male Adult by approximately 2 metres?
The humpback whales migrate through the winter months and seek the warmer waters for breeding and mating. Each year from April, they begin their migration North from the cold Southern Ocean waters. There are the Eastern and Western migrators (as seen in this diagram from ‘Wild About Whales’). NB: this is from a NSW page but is also relevant to QLD humpback whale migration.
The Eastern migrating Humpback whales travel along the Eastern Seaboard of Australia up to the Great Barrier Reef to give birth. Once given birth, the Mums bring their newborn calves into the calm, sheltered waters of Hervey Bay.
Why Hervey Bay?
Due to the calm and protected waters, Hervey Bay is an important resting place for the Humpback whales, especially the Mums and the newborn calves. It’s here, where they’re resting, that Mum can feed the calf so the calf fattens up with enough blubber for the long migration South again. Hervey Bay is the only place along the Eastern Seaboard where the humpback whales aren’t migrating – they’re estimated to stay with us in the bay for 3 days to 2 weeks at a time. This is, by far, the longest time they spend anywhere along the Eastern Seaboard! Yet another reason why resting in Hervey Bay is critical to the survival of the calf’s journey South and such a unique place to observe these beauties.
Also, as a popular mating ground, Hervey Bay certainly has it all in terms of whale watching.
In October, 2019, Hervey Bay was named as the first Whale heritage site in the world. This is testimonial to the fact that our region, community and whale watching fleet are dedicated to best practise and sustainable whale and dolphin watching. Not only do we do our best beside these incredible creatures, we are a unique and important place for their migration and survival. No wonder Hervey Bay is Australia’s Humpback whale watching capital! Have a look at the Tourism and Events Queensland page which confirms it all!
What could I see on a Whalesong Whale Watch in Hervey Bay?
As we’re observing these beauties in the wild, we don’t know exactly what we’ll see from day to day (even from morning to afternoon on the same day). What we can tell you though, is you will be captivated and awestruck by these magnificent and beautiful mammals.
Here are some of the Humpback whale behaviours you may observe:
When the humpback whale rolls on it’s side, raises its pectoral fin in the air and slaps it back down on the water surface. It makes a lot of noise! Sometimes, they roll onto their backs and have both pec fins slapping at once…what a sight!
Tail slapping (or lobtailing)
Much the same as the pec slapping, the humpback whale raises its tail fluke out of the water and slaps it straight back down on the water surface. Again, it’s very loud and an incredible sight.
Peduncle throw (tail throw)
The whale lifts and swings it’s tail out of the water and crashes back into the water again. It may look like a tail slap, but rather than being a slap, the tail is violently thrown back into the water. Mostly seen as a sign of aggression, we observe this behaviour more when males are competing for the affections a female.
Where the humpback whale raises its head out of the water and slaps back down on the surface. Its entire body doesn’t come out of the water, only it’s head (and pectoral fins sometimes).
This is a genuine ‘jump’ out of the water where most of the body is above the surface. Undoubtedly, this is one of the behaviours most of our guests want to observe. No wonder, it’s absolutely spectacular!
When the humpback whale lifts its head out of the water just enough for its eyes to surface above the water line also. There’s nothing quite like staring into the eye of a humpback whale!
Whales float on the surface and resemble logs when they are resting. We see part of their back and sometimes their dorsal fin slightly above the water. This is sometimes a sleeping position also. The photo below is more of a mugging, but you can see from the surface what a logging whale would look like…that’s its dorsal fin right there!
The water vapour, mucus and air that comes out of their blowhole as they are surfacing to take another breath. It’s very smelly and full of bacteria. sometimes the whales are so close that our guests get sprayed!
Unique to Hervey Bay, a mugging is when the whale comes right to the boat, swims around and often spy hops to see what we’re doing. They’re just as curious about us as we are about them and they seem to love checking us out.
Of course, this information is only the beginning. On each of our cruises, you’ll receive an interesting, informative and entertaining commentary about the Humpback Whales and other present marine mammals (we sometimes see the Dwarf Minke Whale and Southern Right Whale in our waters too – which is very North on their migration!). You’re also welcome to ask questions to the knowledgeable skipper and crew of Whalesong Cruises – they’re there to help you in any way they can.
You’ll also see an abundance of other wildlife found locally within Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Straits; inshore and offshore bottlenose dolphins, turtles, dugongs (sea cows) and much birdlife (local and migratory) can be spotted.
The Winter school holidays are right at the beginning of Humpback Whales entering the bay. This means, you can’t get on a cruise with guaranteed sightings, as there’s no such thing until mid July. You could be one of the first to see them for the season though. How?
Whale search/dolphin watch cruise with Whalesong Cruises
In the Queensland Winter school holidays, Whalesong Cruises offers the only Whale search/dolphin watch cruise in the Bay. We don’t guarantee humpback whale sightings but our chances are good.
Typically, at the beginning of the season, we see sub-adult/juvenile humpback whales that have migrated with the expectant Mums and Escorts and are relaxing in the Bay whilst the others make the journey a bit further North. We liken these beauties to teenagers…a little emotional and temperamental, so can be very engaging with us or not want to know us at all. These are the most likely to give us muggings – although we’re seeing more and more Mums and Calves mugging the boat when they’re in the Bay (they begin to enter in mid-August).
Also, at this time of year, our playful offshore bottlenose dolphins enter the bay and often interact with the boat (as well as our resident inshore bottlenose dolphins). They love the bulbous bows of Whalesong so come to ride them often.
We see wildlife on every cruise – even some turtles and the elusive dugong.
Planning your travel to Hervey Bay these school holidays
It’s time for you to book accommodation, if you’re planning on travelling to Hervey Bay these holidays. We would encourage you to head over to the Visit Fraser Coast website where you can see the best accommodation and activities that Hervey Bay has to offer. The friendly office team can assist you in booking other activities also, including full day trips to K’gari (Fraser Island). There are a few to choose from depending on your budget, the number of passengers on the 4wd and the inclusions you’d like.
Whale watching or whale searching with Whalesong Cruises is just the start of a full nature experience you can have in the picturesque Hervey Bay. It’s an ideal paradise to spend the Queensland school holidays this Winter. Although, it’s a popular destination, you never feel as though it’s crowded. The long, golden sandy beaches always have plenty of room for you and the family to enjoy.
Hervey Bay is less than 250km (as the crow flies) from Brisbane, even less from the Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Kingaroy, Monto and Gayndah. That means you can visit even with the COVID-19 restrictions in place these Queensland Winter school holidays.
With limited passenger numbers due to COVID-19, make sure to book online soon to ensure that you don’t miss out. We’d love to have you join us aboard the family friendly Whalesong cruises.