Each May, thousands of southern humpback whales leave the rich feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and begin their annual 5,000-kilometre journey to their breeding grounds in the warm waters of the Whitsunday Islands. After spending a short time there mating and giving birth, they then head south again.
By August, they begin to arrive in Hervey Bay, the only place in the Southern Hemisphere where humpbacks break their migration. With Fraser Island acting as a buffer from the surf, swell and winds of the open ocean, the calm waters of the Great Sandy Strait, of which Hervey Bay forms the northern end, offer the perfect conditions for the whales to laze about and socialise.
The hiatus gives the newborn whales a chance to grow stronger in protected waters before beginning the long journey south to Antarctica. The mother whales also use the time to teach their calves important skills that they’ll need when they get into the cooler, deeper waters of the Southern Ocean.
This annual stopover makes Hervey Bay one of the few places where you’re guaranteed to see whales if you’re there at the right time of year. And for the past 30 years or so, visitors from all over the world have flocked to the bay to take advantage of that guarantee.
The whales put on a great show, slapping their tails, shaking their pectoral fins and leaping into the air. They’re naturally curious and will often sidle over to the whale-watching boats to get a better look, providing the humans on board with exactly what they came for– one of the most awe-inspiring wildlife encounters on the planet.
The whale watching season in Hervey Bay runs from 1 August to 31 October each year. Morning cruises leave daily at 7.45am from Kingfisher Bay Resort aboard the Quick Cat II, returning at 12pm. They can be purchased from the resort or as part of an accommodation package. For the ultimate escape, you can also combine an amazing whale-watch encounter with a tour of World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
For more information and to book a trip, visit www.kingfisherbay.com/hot-deals.html
Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland