Friday, May 18, 2012

Whale Watching

My whale watching trip was something I had looked forward to with much anticipation.  I'd seen documentaries on The Blue Planet:  Seas of Life as well as many others on TV, and again I was drawn by the feeling that under the water is a completely different, fascinating world.  My day cruise departed from Hervey Bay (pronounced Harvey Bay), on the southern coast of Queensland, approximately 290 km (190 mi) north east of Brisbane.  I flew into the Brisbane airport and got a rental car, since the drive is not bad at all (about 3 1/2 hours, 4 if you dawdle).  Check out the car rental in Australia page to compare pricing for multiple companies and make your booking.  Hervey Bay is also one of the departure points to access Fraser Island, so it's a great place to spend a couple of days. You can easily search hotels in Hervey Bay on our website to find a good deal.  The Hervey Bay whale watching season usually runs from mid-July until the end of October/early November.  I decided to go in mid-September:  the weather is usually beautiful, it's not peak tourist season and the kids weren't yet on school holidays (all things I normally try to factor in for all of my trips).

The whale watching cruise I'd booked was a relatively small group of about 30 people.  I've never been a big fan of large crowds and I thought for an experience like this I didn't want to share it with a thousand other people.  The vessel was a nice size and quite comfortable, so no complaints there.  We had a lovely, smooth ride out while the crew served a buffet lunch on board.  There were the standard safety talks, showing where the life jackets were stowed, etc, etc, but they didn't last long.  

It seemed like no time at all before the boat started slowing down as we approached the area where the whales were reported to be.  Everyone scrambled up on deck in a jiffy!  In hindsight, I can't believe I didn't bring a pair of binoculars - I only had my camera.  The first time I saw that whale fluke break the surface of the water and send a huge spray of water into the air, I felt the excitement ripple through the group around me.  The clicks and whirs of cameras was almost deafening :-).  Ironically, at this point, unless you had a super duper zoom lens, all you'd see on your photo would be a huge expanse of blue with a small black dot in the middle.  Trust me, it wouldn't look nearly as close as this picture below!
Frolicking Whale
We'd been informed ahead of time that the boats were restricted on how close they can get to the whales, so I wasn't sure if we'd be able to see much of anything.  I was pleasantly surprised when the boat did finally come to a stop near the 3 whales out there, as we were closer than I'd hoped for.  We could clearly hear the loud spray and see the fountain when they'd surface for air, followed by the walloping slap as the tail hit the water.  I've only been out whale watching once, so I'm not sure if the ones we saw were particularly active and playful, or if that was just the normal behaviour.  It was mesmerizing, watching these massive mammals frolicking so gracefully in the water.  Sometimes they would appear to hang in the air, in suspended animation, before plunging back into the water with a splash.  Because of the constant motion (not only of the whales, but the rise and fall of the boat as well), I took lots of photos that didn't turn out well, so I was very glad to have an extra battery and memory stick.  Of course, I also ended up with the obligatory picture of the back of someone's head!

The time seemed to just fly by, and before long we were headed back to shore.  The return trip was a bit choppy due to the wind picking up, and we ended up with a few passengers looking decidedly green around the gills.  If you're the type who has issues with seasickness, I would suggest taking something along with you, just in case.

If you're looking for something else fun to do in the area, have a look at our page on Brisbane, Area Activities and Tours.  There's no end to your options -- the hardest part is deciding exactly what you want to do!

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