Having a whale of a time…

This post has been reposted from my Sunshine Coast website Navigator…

There’s a flat part to the water – completely glass-like. It looks almost like an oil slick, but it isn’t. It’s a “footprint” left behind when a whale dives – as the up-thrust of it’s tail drives water to the surface.

the footprint is the flat part of the water in the bottom right of the photo

It’s just one of the ways that we know there are whales around – another are the blows…and they’re all around us.

We’re on Whale One, about 11- 12 miles off the coast of Mooloolaba and we’re excited. In fact, even the crew is excited. Today is a good day – there are plenty of whales about and they’re having fun.

Miss 19 and I don’t have a great record with whale watching. We had 2 attempts in Kaikoura – both times the cruise was cancelled due to bad weather – and another off Auckland where we saw nothing nada zilch. It happens – and when it does, it’s best just to enjoy the sights and experience of the cruise.

This time we’ve timed (accidentally) our whale watch experience to coincide with the peak time of the Humpback whale’s northern migration – and these guys have energy to burn. Given that they won’t eat again until they’re back in Antarctica later in the year, they probably have more energy now than they will have on the return journey. I guess every road trip needs some fun, and this one – to the Barrier Reef and then back again – is longer than most.

Leaving from the Wharf at Mooloolaba, we cruised up the river – past some multi-million dollar properties – to where the river meets the ocean at the rock wall. On the way out we past a trawler heading back in with their catch. ‘There’s plenty of them out there,’ the deckie called.

From here things got choppy – and more than a few people were pleased to have taken the precaution of sea-sickness tablets. Miss 19 and I, however, were completely unaffected and enjoyed the ride. The crew kept coming around to check on everyone and hand out bags where required.

As we motored out to the main whale highway – an area anywhere between 8-12 miles off Mooloolaba – Shorty, our skipper told us more about the whales. Migaloo, the famed white whale, had been seen off North Stradbroke a day or so earlier and was rumoured to be in the area, so Shorty told us about the day he spent almost 3 hours with Migaloo back in the late 90’s.

At about the 10 mile mark we saw our first blow – and then another. From this point it just got better and better as we witnessed breach after breach and a couple of corkscrews. We even saw a rare double breach – where 2 whales came out of the water at the same time. Sadly I don’t have the photographic proof, but it was epic.

As we idled in the water – Shorty explaining how far we needed to stay from them to guarantee their safety and that of any newborns – the whales came to us. One went under the boat, surfacing on the other side so we all had a good look at her. I got so carried away with pointing and cheering that I couldn’t take photos. Thankfully Miss 19 took over and I have her to thank for all the pics in this post.

The pictures tell just a small part of what was a completely awesome and breathtaking experience. Just fabulous. Oh, and we didn’t catch up with Migaloo – although we did come across a gorgeous dappled (probably) female that got us awfully excited for a little while.

Want to know more?

Whale One runs two cruises a day during the peak whale-watching season – each lasting about 3 hours. They also have a speed boat – the Wild One – which gets you to the whales quicker. Those tours last 2 hours.

Don’t forget, whales are wild animals and as such their behaviour can’t be predicted – nor can sightings. Whale One has a very good strike rate – check out their Facebook page for the daily action – but even so, we got extremely lucky.

You can book cruises at their website.


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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

21 thoughts

  1. Whales are gorgeous aren’t they? When I lived in Kiama sometimes one would get dangerously close to the beach but the whole town it seemed would hear the call ‘whale’ and head down to see it. Beautiful creatures and loved all your photos.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

  2. I really want to head out whale watching here in Hervey Bay but I worry I’ll choose the wrong boat. Or the wrong time. I know any time after Sept is considered too late. And with my luck I’ll (again, as I did in the 1990s) book a day which offers up terrible weather.

    I really need to suss out local options and I think companies used to provide a discount for locals so I must check on that as well.

  3. What a wonderful experience Jo. This is one adventure that I haven’t experienced yet. Because I suffer from sea sickness so badly, I’m a little hesitant. My husband and son see whale (very up close) when they are out fishing in their boat. I keep asking them to take photos. My daughter went swimming with the whale at Mooloolaba a few months ago and said it was pretty special. 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    1. Seasickness is why my hubby didn’t come with us. Swimming with them would be very special indeed.

  4. Wow – sounds and looks like a fabulous experience and SO many whales! Our Hervey Bay whale watching experience last year wasn’t quite as successful. There’s a blog post about that on my blog. We saw whales (not up close though) but we didn’t pick the right cruise to suit the kind of experience we were hoping for. Might try this one of yours next time! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

  5. Beautiful shots! If only pictures give these goosebumps, how amazing it must have been to experience them live!!!

  6. We did a whale watching cruise while on holidays in Hervey Bay in the late 90’s – in the photos Miss 20 looks about 2. It was amazing, and photos can never do it justice – it is such an amazing experience to see these great creatures up close! We went later in the year when the whales were heading south with their calves, loved seeing mamas and babes x

    1. The peak time to come here is between March/April and October/November. You’ll avoid the humidity and get some great weather.

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