If you (or someone you know) has been fortunate enough to see humpback whales in their natural habitat, you’ll know why the experience is described as mind blowing, majestic, even life-changing!
Coming eye-to-eye with one of the world’s largest creatures is a truly humbling experience.
We are lucky that, like us, humpback whales seem to love our coastal waters, shallow bays and warm tropical seas! Each year, we get to witness some of the 40,000 or so whales migrating along Queensland’s east coast between the Gold Coast and Cairns.
A warm-water whale nursery
Mother and calf, Great Sandy Marine Park | © Jodie Bray
Why do they travel all this way? It’s because whales prefer to give birth in warm tropical waters rather than in the Antarctic … and who could blame them!
Each year between July and November, the waters off our coast come alive with the spectacular acrobatic displays of humpback whales. On their 10,000km migration, the whales travel north to mate and give birth to their calves on the Great Barrier Reef before returning south to their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic.
On their southerly journey, many whales stop-over in ‘Whale-central’, Hervey Bay in the Great Sandy Marine Park, and stay for up to a week, resting and playing. The bay is also a popular breeding ground during this season, with breeding pairs migrating ahead of the mothers and calves.
The year 2020 was an unusual year all around, and also for the whales! As early as June, whales were sighted in Hervey Bay, whereas they usually come into the bay in late August or early September in groups of mums with calves. What will 2021 bring?
Whale of a show
In the waters of Hervey Bay and around K’gari (Fraser Island), inquisitive humpbacks put on a show for us humans. Lucky whale watchers can view the antics of pods of whales from vantage points along the coast or from whale watching vessels. Gaze spellbound as whales run through their routines—blow, breach, tail-slap, spy-hop and fin-slap.
Often whales will approach and cruise around even under whale watching boats for several minutes. Vessels are required to keep a safe distance from the animals, but that doesn’t mean the whales can’t come closer to say hello!
Did you know?
- A whale’s brain weighs 5kg and the animals are understood to be intelligent, with well-developed senses of sight, hearing and touch.
- A humpback whale’s blow as it surfaces is the whale exhaling its breath. The air and water vapour shoots up to 4m in the air and empties 90 per cent of the whale’s lungs, which are about the size of a small car, in less than a second.
- A whale’s heart is up to 1.5m long, and their full body size is around 16 metres.
- Male humpback whales ‘sing’ and their hauntingly beautiful songs can last up to 30 minutes. All males from the same area sing the same song on the way to their breeding grounds.
Join a whale watching tour
Whale watching tour in Hervey Bay | © Blue Dog Photography
A day on the water with the chance to see these incredible creatures up close, or a birds’ eye view through the binoculars from a coastal vantage point is something thousands of people enjoy each year.
Whale watching tours in the Great Sandy Marine Park usually run from July to November from Hervey Bay and K’gari (Fraser Island). See Visit Fraser Coast for details.
Whale watching is also possible in many other places along our coastline. See Tourism Queensland for more information.
Enjoy the Great Sandy Marine Park all year round
Canoeing Great Sandy Marine Park | © Ben Edmonds Photography
Whether or not it’s whale-watching season, Hervey Bay, Tin Can Bay and K’gari (Fraser Island) offer the chance for year-round wildlife encounters with turtles, dugongs and an abundance of fish, corals, birds and more. Whether you canoe, dive, swim or sail, enjoy the beautiful coastal waters and magical scenery.
Find out more about the Great Sandy Marine Park and K’gari (Fraser Island), Great Sandy National Park.
And always check park alerts before you head off for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.