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March 23, 2013

Whale watching at Hervey Bay

Whales don’t keep mum about their babies for Hervey Bay visitors


By Adrienne Costin

“Folks, I think we’re in luck,” boomed across the deck of Freedom III. “It looks like we have a mum bringing her new baby over to the boat.”

The mum in question weighed around 20 tonnes (she was only young) and her baby was far bigger than most of us had ever seen – but when you are talking humpback whales, this is what to expect, especially when you are whale watching in the whale’s winter holiday grounds, Platypus Bay off Queensland’s Fraser Coast.

The youngster may have been huge but it was very shy and kept hiding under its mother. But she was having none of it and sank below the surface, then gently rising with the youngster resting on her giant head. She stayed for at least 10 minutes, every so often sinking down and then rising again as if to reassure baby that all was ok.

Satisfied her offspring had been suitably admired, the mother sank below the surface and the two swam away, like two silent submarines, to another part of the bay, and perhaps to another of the nine boats in the Hervey Bay whale watching fleet.

This familiarity is what Hervey Bay whale watch operators, and their guests, are now enjoying.

“These whales have grown up with the boats and know they have nothing to fear.

“In fact, quite the opposite, they want to interact with us,” said the ship’s captain Barry Stewart.

Freedom III joined the whale watch fleet for the first time in 2009. The 58 foot catamaran was previously owned by famous documentary producer Ben Cropp and offers 360 degree viewing on three levels.

Fabulous whale watching opportunities are backed up with luxurious surrounding, sumptuous home-cooked goodies for morning and afternoon tea and a delicious tropical lunchtime buffet. The boat is surveyed to take a maximum of 49 guests but owners Keith and Sue Reid prefer to host around 40 for maximum travelling pleasure.

There was barely time to enjoy a cuppa before we were called to the decks again. This time to watch a slightly older baby perfecting the breach, that amazing manouevre where the whale lunges sideways from the water, arches through the air and then crashes back down into the water.

As before, we marvelled as the huge mother, this one older and bigger than the last, leapt from the water, her youngster mimicking her actions seconds later. The pair leapt and plunged in a semi-circle around the boat before diving one last time and disappearing from view – most likely to take a breather after their exertion.

If ever we needed proof that whale watching in Hervey Bay was an up close and personal experience then these four whales alone provided it. While they were the standouts of the day’s experience, we also enjoyed other whale watch experience – a pod of youngsters (I can’t actually tell the difference but this is what we were told) raced by seeming to play tag, blows on the horizon from unseen whales, tail flaps from others who also chose to stay anonymous.

When you are dealing with a creature that is the equivalent in size to 11 elephants or 600 people it is hard not to be impressed, especially when their acrobatic skills are so phenomenal. The Hervey Bay experience is even more special because it is here that watchers can enjoy the whales at rest and play before they make their long journey back to the Antarctic.

All in all it was a magnificent day on the water! Perhaps one day I will take my kids to meet theirs.

The Facts

Freedom III operates daily whale watch cruises during the season from late July to November departing the Great Sandy Straits Marina at 9.30am and returning at 3pm. Prices are $120 adults, $80 children (4-14 years), $105 seniors and students, $320 family four – two adults, two children. www.freedomwhalewatch.com.au

For information on all Hervey Bay whale watches cruises, accommodation packages and other information visit www.whalesherveybay.com.au

Getting there:

Qantaslink offers daily flights between Brisbane and the Fraser Coast. www.qantas.com.au

Virgin Blue flies direct to Hervey Bay from Sydney with connections from other ports. www.virginblue.com.au

QR Tilt Train packages from Brisbane to Hervey Bay start at $74 per person one way. www.tilttrain.com.au

For more information on the Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast visit www.queenslandholidays.com.au
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