I just spent 4 nights and 5 days on holidays at Hervey Bay. Hervey Bay is the premier humpback whale watching destination in the world. The humpbacks spend the summer in the Antarctica eating krill and migrate north for winter.
On the way back they call into Hervey Bay. You can see these humpback whales all up and down the east coast but they actually stop and spend time in Hervey Bay resting and playing. Everywhere else they are on the highway just motoring on past, Hervey Bay is like a car park where they come for some fun.
My wife found a good deal for the accommodation on the Quickbeds web site. I found a web site that lists all of the whale watching tours. I choose the Blue Dolphin because it is a sailing catamaran and while I was in New Caledonia I went whale watching on a sailing catamaran.
I booked the cruise over the phone and they offered to pick us up at our hotel, they then drove us to the marina in time for the 7.30 departure. On the way out we were passed by the other tour boats that motored on past, the kids were having a great time.
The first whales we saw were a mother and her baby, they were traveling in the direction back towards the marina so we didn't follow them for long.
The next whales were a pair, one huge adult male and another whale. There was another tour boat stopped near them that moved off as we got closer. At first the big one was doing pectoral slaps, sometimes lifting both out of the water.
They then came over to our boat, now that was amazing. The boat is 10m long, the big one was that and half again, he had to be at least 15m long and probably weighs 40-45 ton (metric). I really don't know who was watching who, the captain was getting us to wave like crazy to keep them interested, I honestly think that they have us conditioned.
The large male was going from side to side, back and front, where he went, we followed. At one stage he just hung under the boat in the same relative position with his head underneath as the boat drifted. He was blowing bubbles, breathing out so that it would spray us and even at one point did a pectoral slap and soaked me to the waist.
The smaller one was always around, he would come close to the boat and go underneath etc but I don't think he was as experienced at getting us to react. We had them for about an hour, another tour boat came along as well as another sailing boat. I am pretty sure the regulations make it so that there is no more than 2 boats at any one pod to stop them felling crowded and trapped. When the other boat came the two whales left so we left too.
Later on we saw a pod of 8 whales, 2 mothers, 2 calves and 4 escorts. At first we thought it was 7 whales and a dolphin it turned out that it was a baby whale that was 1-2 days old. Peter (our captain) has been whale watching for 10 years but has never seen a baby that small or with that type of colour and markings.
The mother with the older baby moved off and we stayed with the baby taking some photos for the research people. To me it looked like the baby was curious about our boat and wanted to get closer but the mother was protective and kept putting herself between bub and us, the older escorts were following behind. Peter had a hard time tracking the pod and making sure he wasn't too close because the baby was being a handful for the mum trying to get around her zigging and zagging all over the place.
The photo below is the smaller one that was hanging around our boat, the entire set (so far) can be seen here.