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Published on : Friday, July 3, 2015
Few people could deny watching whales in their natural habitat, anywhere in the world, is a special and emotional experience. Getting up close and personal with some of the world’s largest animals is certainly awe-inspiring.
Whale watching in Hervey Bay, however, guarantees an unparalleled interactive encounter. Imagine a 40 tonne humpback whale sidling up to your boat, rolling over and looking you straight in the eye! Or being so close that you feel as though you could virtually reach out and touch them.
This is the reality of a Hervey Bay whale experience and why the region holds the title of the ‘whale watching capital of the world’.
Between July and November annually, thousands of humpback whales travel the ‘humpback highway’ and arrive in the calm, protected waters of Hervey Bay – located within the Great Sandy Marine Park.
Spending time in Hervey Bay allows them to rest, relax and socialise before continuing back to the Antarctic, where they spend the summer months feeding on krill and small fish before beginning their pilgrimage north again.
Rest time is crucial for calves undertaking their first migratory trip, as well as for their mothers; who sacrifice their own energy to produce milk rich in fat. Calves aren’t as strong, fast or coordinated as adults and this annual holiday provides them with an opportunity to rest, feed and build up their stores of fat, which are important for their survival in the sub-zero temperatures of the Antarctic.
Protected by World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the waters of Hervey Bay provide ideal conditions for the whales to take time out from their long and arduous journey. Consequently, it is here that the most amazing experiences can be had.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that over the past few decades whale behaviour around boats within Hervey Bay has changed. During the early days of whale watching, whales would shy away from vessels. Females in particular were incredibly wary and would often place themselves between the vessel and their calf. Now the story is completely different.
Whales will often approach vessels and stay close, interacting with the people on board for significant periods of time, a behaviour known as ‘mugging’. Females are even pushing their calves towards excited whale watchers.
Humpback whales are an exceptionally surface-active species. As a result, the diversity of behaviours they display during their stay in Hervey Bay is exciting, interesting and truly amazing.
These behaviours are in stark contrast to when whales are in ‘migration mode’. When travelling, whales rarely partake in the sport of people watching, which is so popular in Hervey Bay.