It’s the start of the humpback whale season here in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia. From July to November you have the opportunity to experience these amazing mammals up close as they frolic, breed and calve in the warm Pacific waters off northern Australia. In spring they return south with their young. These beautiful creatures travel around 5000km on average during this migration. Now that’s a journey! Humpbacks can travel up to 8 km/h but during their long migration they average only 1.6km/h, resting and socialising along the way.
Some Humpback facts:
- Length Adults: 14m to 18m; Calves: 4m to 5m at birth
- Weight Adults: up to 50 tonnes; Calves: 2 tonnes at birth
- Gestation: 11 to 11.5 months
- Weaning age: up to 11 months
- Calving interval: 2 to 3 years
- Physical maturity age: 12 to 15 years
- Sexual maturity age: 4 to 10 years
- Mating season: June to October
- Calving season: June to October
- Cruising speed: 8km/h
- Blow pattern: Small and bushy, up to 4m
- Protected Since 1965
We chose a smaller whale watching company with a great reputation for our whale experience and we weren’t disappointed.
(Image from www.whalesong.com.au)
Onboard Whalesong we set off from the Great Sandy Straits Marina heading out into Hervey Bay at 8am.
It took an hour to locate our first whales, three young males, who were quite lively. We were told that it is common for males to challenge each other in an effort to claim a female during mating season.
The gestation period for whales is 11-12 months. Once born, a humpback calf can drink up to 600 litres of milk from its mother daily.
During the 5 hours we were out in the bay we estimate we saw around 20 whales. The ocean was so still that often we’d come across them snoozing, just basking in the sunshine. Some were nonchalant about our presence. Others were as intrigued about us as we were about them and would swim under the boat, coming up next to us for a closer look.
We were so happy with our day and were heading back to the marina when two whales appeared and swam up next to the boat, just floating beside us. One turned onto it’s back, then it’s side to get a better view of us! It was such an amazing experience, I may have had tears in my eyes. I’ve always been fascinated by whales and even more so now. I was pretty ambivalent about doing a whale watching tour as I was under the impression that you had to keep at least 100 metres from them. I didn’t realise that the whales could come up to you if they choose. If you do have the opportunity, I’d thoroughly recommend the experience. They are truly one of the most amazing creatures on our planet.
Migrating further north tomorrow…perhaps a little faster than our humpback friends.
See you again soon…