WONDERFUL WHALE TOUR
We had the privilege of watching a bunch of humpback whales frolic in their ocean playground outside the heads at Sydney Harbour on their way north to breed earlier this year.
According to our tour guide, they had already travelled about 3000 km to be there, with another 1000 to go – a 8000 km round trip!
You never know how these things will work out when you book. It’s impossible for the service providers to guarantee you will actually see a whale. This particular group had a deal where if you didn’t see whales you could rebook a cruise at no extra cost. However, that’s not always practical.
We were lucky. The sun was shining (it was really cold, but we rugged up) and the sea was not too choppy – despite warnings from the tour guide telling us how rough it would be out there. It took a while to find them but once we did we were treated to a spectacular show. They came to the surface regularly and we were close enough to hear the water spray from their blows, though the boat’s captain was careful to observe the regulations regarding the distance to whales. We even saw some jump and ‘wave’ with their beautiful big tail fins. In all, I guess we saw about six whales, but our boat was concentrating on the first two spotted.
It was obvious the crew were as excited as we were, though they do this trip twice daily during the season and usually have decent sightings. It seems the more they see them, the more they love and respect them, taking great pains to ensure they played by the whales’ rules; whales don’t like it when boats hang out in front or behind them (we could see their agitation when other tour boats did this) but are happy to play when boats are to their side where they can be watched easily by the whales.
WHALE NUMBERS RECOVERING
Our tour guide explained how when the first European settlers came to Sydney the harbour was full of whales. It didn’t take long for their numbers to dwindle to dangerously low levels due to them being killed for the blubber which was used to make soap, cosmetics and margarine and has oil that was used for things like lanterns.
Eventually, the government took steps to protect them and alternative substances were found to replace the use of whale blubber. The humpback population seems to be bouncing back but it’s not the same for the southern right whales which have a different breeding schedule.
DID YOU KNOW?
- humpback whales breach more than any other whale. Scientists are not sure why. Fishermen used to think it was to taunt them but now the thought is they do it to show off their strength to other whales. A whale leaps by swimming quickly forward and then turning its snout suddenly upward to send its forward momentum skyward. This is amazing as some humpback whales can weigh as much as 30 tonnes
- Some (Baleen) whales are toothless and use a comb like fibre to filter the krill and plankton they live on
- there are 79 – 84 different species of whale
- whales found in the southern hemisphere will never meet their northern hemisphere counterparts. The difference in seasons means they migrate for breeding at opposite times of the year
- only one-half of their brain sleeps at a time. This is because they need to be able to surface to breathe
- whales support many different types of life, such as the barnacles and sea lice that live on their skin
- female humpbacks have best friends! According to a Mingan Island Cetacean study group, the friends meet up with each other each year and ‘hang out’. The females who show this behaviour appear to be healthier and deliver more calves
Check out facts.randomhistory.com for more interesting facts.
It’s a wonderful thing that our grandchildren will be able to experience the joy of watching these majestic creatures in the wild.
I recently read that a 31-year-old female Northern White Rhino died in a Czech Republic zoo due to complications from a cyst. Now there are only four left on the planet, three females and an elderly male. We can only hope we have acted in time to save the whales.
The International Whaling Commission declared a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 in response to the drastic fall in the number of many whale species. Of the 11 known species of baleen whales, nine are officially endangered with population numbers that are just a small fraction of what they were 100 years ago.
According to the latest whale census, land-based sightings this year around the NSW coast are lower than last year. However, this could be due to warm currents driving the whales further out to sea.
Those beautiful whales will be returning from their amorous activities late September – early October, with babies in tow. This is a great time to see them from the cliffs around the harbour as they tend to stay closer to land, which messes with the sonar signals sharks and killer whales depend on. However, it is magical watching them from a boat and you might get lucky like us and see the dolphins as well.
I wouldn’t recommend this trip for smaller children. The boat goes outside Sydney heads where the water can be really rough. However, I sure plan on taking mine when they are older as its such a wonderful opportunity to learn about these beautiful creatures.
There are several tour operators offering whale watching. We went with www.ozwhalewatching.com.au which offers breakfast/ lunch, four-hour cruises.
Have you spotted any whales? Share your experience in the comment box below.
Wishing you wonderful wild sightings and a gleeful week, Tamuria.