It's that time of the year when whale enthusiasts on both the east and west coasts of Australia get excited - it's whale watching season. Now is the time to enjoy the unique experience of seeing humpback whales making the most of nature’s playground. The season begins in June (and ends in November) when these majestic creatures undertake their annual migration to warmer waters.
Gold Coast Adventures runs two whale watching trips each day during the season, leaving from the Mariners Cove Marina, where watercraft of all shapes and sizes cast their reflections on water as smooth as glass. This company's wave piercing catamaran is large and very stable, giving passengers a smooth and comfortable ride. In just 10 minutes whale watchers are in prime position – right in the middle of the humpback highway. After boarding, morning tea is served and then it's time to pull up anchor, head out through the Gold Coast Seaway and venture into the Pacific Ocean. During this time, passengers are given an informative commentary and tips on what to look for when whale spotting. Here are just a few of the interesting facts about the humpback whales that an on-board marine biologist shares: whalesong can last for up to 2 hours; a baby humpback puts on 1kg every hour and can weigh up to 1,000kg and whilst an adult humpback can hold its breath for up to 40 minutes, babies can only hold their breath for about 5 minutes.
Whilst the main focus is on definitely on whale watching, turtles (including leatherback turtles), bottle-nosed dolphins and other marine life can be seen in these waters. In the skies above whistling kites, mutton birds, crested terns and cape gannets may be sighted. The Gold Coast skyline provides a stunning backdrop to this adventure - take a good look at the mountains, catch a glimpse of Mt Warning and try to find the "Sleeping Giant".
Once out into the open water, all eyes scan the ocean's surface for signs that whales are about. When a sudden burst of white spray shoots up from the sea, passengers need to have their cameras ready to get that perfect shot as the whales begin to play. There really is no sight quite like one of these huge mammals breaching, suddenly propelling themselves out of the water and just as quickly crashing back down, creating a large splash with their massive bodies as they drop back into the ocean. There's no doubt that the experience of whale watching is a test of patience, but the reward is sweet. Just when the waiting seems unbearable, there's a great whoosh, that white cloud shoots up from the sea and a large, dark form can be seen - sometimes so close that it takes your breath away. It seems that these incredible creatures of the sea are, at times, just as curious about us as we are about them.
This experience should be on everyone's "must do" list and enjoyed at least once in a lifetime. There's something magical about seeing these beautiful ocean dwellers in their natural environment that will hold you spellbound.
Worth knowing: whilst there's plenty of seating inside, the best whale watching is done on the open decks. Remember to pack a hat, sunscreen and sunnies. Free all day parking is available at Marina Mirage and Mariners Cove Marina. Why not make the most of it and stay overnight or longer on the Gold Coast? Go to www.VisitGoldCoast.com for information regarding accommodation, things to do, places to eat and more.
by Sandy Ludinski (close up humpback whale photos by Glenn Carter, Seapix)