September 11, 2012

We're Jam-packed On The Hervey Bay Humpback Highway


There is nothing more awe inspiring than watching a 40-tonne creature cavort and play like a puppy out in the calm waters on the lee side of Fraser Island… except when several others decide to join in the game.

Blistering Barnacles... now that's up close and personal!
Each year thousands of Southern Humpbacks leave the rich feeding grounds of Antarctica in May and make the annual 5,000 kilometre journey to the breeding grounds in the warm waters of The Whitsundays.  They spend a short time here where some of the females give birth and others mate.  The lifecycle of these whales then brings them into the Fraser Coast - on their southern migration - which has helped the region become Australia’s top whale watching destination.

Between August and October, the protected waters between Fraser Island and Hervey Bay offer safe sanctuary for mothers with calves; adolescent whales gaining strength for the long swim south and for adults wanting a bit of wallowing mid migration.   The whales are revered in this region as tourists flock in droves to admire these giants of the deep.  The whales are naturally curious and show little wariness of humans while they rest and play in Great Sandy Strait – which is a far cry from their early history of European exploitation.

Did you know? Whale Watching cruises leave daily from Kingfisher Bay Resort with our partners Jill and Skipper Brian Perry – who pioneered whale watching in the region using a spotter plane and toilet rolls to show where the  whales were!

While you won’t see Melville’s legendary Moby Dick in the calm waters off Hervey Bay, you may come across Nala, Roxanne, Cupid, Caesar, Merlin, Phantom, Venus and Raoul – who are just some of the whales who’ve frequented the Fraser Coast in recent years and may make a cameo appearance again this season.

Their natural curiosity makes them a hit with the crowds
Humpback Whales are naturally curious about objects in their environment and many are easily identifiable as individuals because of the markings on their fins and bodies – and none is more famous than ‘Migaloo the White Whale’, who was spotted in Queensland waters earlier this year.

This inquisitiveness and their socialising behaviour has helped them become the mainstay of whale watching tourism in many locations around the world since the 1980s.  And Hervey Bay is no exception, offering some of the best viewing this side of the east coast from August through till the end of October.

According to the Oceania Institute, Humpback Whales often show their tails before diving under the water and each has markings that make it unique. By taking photographs researchers can monitor the movements of individuals - with more than 1000 whales have been identified this way.

Hervey Bay’s patron whale, Nala – who bucks the naming convention and was named after a character in the Lion King - was first seen in the Bay in 1992, has visited on and off since 1997 with a succession of calves.  She hasn’t been spotted this season, but Skipper Brian Perry says it’s still early days.  

Who is watching whom? Who cares!
At the moment when you head out on Quick Cat ll (pictured left) it’s the Humpback babies that are stealing the show. Weighting well over a tonne at birth, they are as excited to see the world as any toddler – and a boatload of funny-looking happy-waving tourists is almost irresistible.

Quick Cat ll’s custom designed platform of large upper and lower decks give uncrowded viewing; that coupled with special features such as the hydrophone and underwater viewing allows you to really get up close and personal with all the ‘behave-because-mums-getting-grey-hair’ action.

As well as trying the patience of Mum, these big babies are also learning the lessons of life. After all school is in - and every young Humpback Whale needs to learn the full repertoire of behaviour from breaching to lunging, spy-hopping, pectoral and tail slapping . And the only way the Humpback bubs learn is by watching the adults at play or cavorting with Hervey Bay locals including Dugongs, Turtles and our lovable Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, who have also been making an appearance on the morning tours.

Dive into the your Humpback adventures before the season ends on Oct 31 and if you book a Fraser + Whales package at Kingfisher Bay Resort you'll receive a THIRD NIGHT FREE OR follow us on Facebook from the comfort of your lounge chair!   This is Ranger Amelia signing off and heading out for a spot of whale watching myself.

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