Tips for Whale Watching From Your Tinny

20 May 24

Every year, between April and November, the eastern coastline of Australia comes alive with the spectacular sight of Humpback whales migrating north. These magnificent creatures travel up to 10,000 kilometres from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to the warmer waters off Australia's east coast (specifically the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef) to breed and calve.

Humpback whales are known for their acrobatic displays, which they often perform during the migration. These displays include breaching, tail slapping, and pectoral slapping. It is believed that these behaviours serve several purposes, such as communication, social interaction, mate attraction, and warning off other predators such as sharks who prey on calves.

How to Stay Safe Near Whales

Sharing the ocean with whales is an incredible experience, but it's crucial to prioritise their safety and yours. Here are some key points to remember if you’re planning to check out the Humpbacks on your Stacer boat:

Respect the distance: Maintain a safe distance from whales as mandated by regulations. This is typically around 100 meters for humpback whales and can vary depending on the species. As much as possible, avoid getting between a mother and a calf.

Slow and steady: Approach whales slowly and maintain a steady course and speed. Avoid sudden changes in direction or speed that could startle them.

Turn off the engine: When viewing whales, put your engine in neutral and avoid creating unnecessary noise or wake.

No chasing: Never chase or pursue whales. Leave them doing their own thing at a safe distance. Avoid doing any actions that could be perceived as threatening.

Use binoculars: A good pair of binoculars will help you to get a closer look at them and observe their behaviour on water.

Be aware of surroundings: Keep a close eye out on other boats since there will be a lot of them, ranging from cruise tours and private boats who are also looking out for boats. Be careful in operating your boat and avoid speeding or blindly navigating without considering both the whales and other boats.  

Signs to Look Out for When a Whale Is Near

You’re all alert to spot a whale but you’re not too sure if they are near? Observe any of these activities in the water to know that whales are in the area:

Spouting: Whales are marine mammals and need to come to the surface of the water to breathe. When they do, they forcefully exhale air and water vapour through their blowholes, which creates a visible plume. This process is called spouting and is a great way to indicate the presence of a whale, especially from a distance.

Breaches: Humpback whales are best known for their spectacular breaches, where they launch themselves entirely out of the water. A breach can be a thrilling sight in person, and it can also be a good way to spot whales from a distance, as the splash can be seen from quite far away.

Pec slaps: Humpbacks also tend to slap their pectoral fins, or flippers, on the surface of the water. This behaviour is thought to be a form of communication, and it can also be a good way to spot whales from a distance.

Surfacing behaviour: Pay attention to any disturbances on the water's surface. Whales create ripples or waves as they move through the water, and also cause the surface to bulge slightly just before they breach.

Whale Watching Tips for an Unforgettable Adventure

Go during the peak season: For the best chance of seeing humpback whales in the flesh, plan your trip between May and July for the northbound migration and September to November for the southbound migration.

Choose your location: Hervey Bay, Byron Bay, Port Stephens, Eden and Coffs Harbour are popular spots where you can find the majestic Humpback whales. Do your research on familiarizing these spots to make sure you can find whales easily and safely.

Gear up: Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the harsh heat of the sun. If you’re prone to seasickness, bring anti-nausea medication.

As mentioned before, if you want to see the Humpbacks clearly, binoculars are a must-have to spot them and appreciate their awesomeness. Don’t forget to bring a camera/smartphone to capture all the great whale moments and a power bank to charge your gadgets.

Listen to the experts: If it is your first time whale watching, we recommend you to join a tour guided by knowledgeable professionals who will ensure your safety and provide you with the best possible experience while adhering to safety regulations and respecting the whales' natural behaviour.

Be patient and observant: Whales are wild creatures, so sightings aren't 100% guaranteed. Enjoy the scenic beauty and keep an eye out for the telltale signs as mentioned earlier.

Make sure your engine runs perfectly: You don’t want to be caught in the middle of the ocean with a dead engine. Make sure your services are up-to-date: Contact Thwaites Marine today and our experienced mechanics will take care of your outboard or inboard to make sure it runs smoothly before your next boating adventure!

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