There’s no doubt in my mind that Hervey Bay whale watching is a bucket list experience for wildlife lovers. The Queensland destination on the Fraser Coast is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales during their migration to Antarctica. Once you’ve been there and done it, it’s easy to see why whale watching in Hervey Bay is an experience you’ll be talking about forever.
As we tuck into a spread of cold chicken and salad, our whale-watching skipper yells out “There’s a pod coming towards us.”
Hervey Bay whale watching
In the distance, three whales swim strongly towards the boat and stop within a metre of it.
They cautiously stick their heads in the air for a few seconds, as if to take a good look and then blow, dive and their giant dark shapes disappear underneath the boat.
Lunch forgotten, everyone runs around in excitement peering into the water after them.
We rush to position ourselves at the back of the catamaran, and for a moment the tension is palpable as we wait for them to reappear.
Sure enough, three large knobbly heads bob up simultaneously, so close to the boat that the yellow crusty barnacles underneath the whales can be clearly seen.
It’s a surreal atmosphere, almost like a scene from a science fiction movie where the aliens rise from the deep.
Sensing us with their tubercles, or fleshy knobs along the upper and lower jaws, they drift lazily right next to the boat.
Our Hervey Bay whale watching experience is off to a great start!
It is difficult to say what attracts the humpback whales to the boats. And there are several whale watching boats in Hervey Bay.
If you love cruising on the water, you can also try sailing the Great Sandy Straits around Fraser Island for a chance to spot humpback whales too. Hervey Bay and Fraser Island are part of Queensland’s Fraser Coast.
Sometimes waving and yelling piques their curiosity, while other times it might simply be the hum of the boat’s engine.
A dark shape under the water releases a flurry of bubbles then lifts one pectoral fin and rolls over, displaying white markings on its body, which are distinct to each individual.
There’s a loud trumpeting noise and one whale does a lap around the boat, rolls and flips its tail.
It sticks its head up and lifts their pectoral fins (which are modified forelimbs with a bone structure similar to that of the human hand and arm) in a wave, while another slaps the ocean playfully.
Whales are found in a lot of places around the world but whale watching Harvey Bay is the place for personal interaction.
As the whales are not touched or fed, it is logical to assume that these animals must have a basic level of curiosity to interact with human beings.
Hervey Bay Whale Watching Water ballet
Synchronised heads pop up for a good long look at us again before disappearing into the water, then one of them flips upside down before popping up so close to a woman who tries to reach out and almost touches it.
According to a Pacific Whale Foundation researcher who knows about the habits of the humpback whales, Hervey Bay is the best place to get close to them.
Humpback whales are relaxed when they arrive in Hervey Bay and are easy to interact with.
There are three types of whales: active ones splash around, roll and jump; quiet ones just want to relax and friendly ones that are curious.
People from all over the world, travel to see the whales in Hervey Bay and yet there are many Australians who have never been whale watching in Hervey Bay.
It’s rather surprising, as Fraser Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a destination that is well known. Not far from Hervey Bay, there’s historic Maryborough.
More than half the passengers on our boat were from overseas: Italy, UK and Germany.
Nina Centaine is a Gold Coast songwriter who was so inspired by her last whale-watching experience that she wrote a song about them, integrating the sounds of the whales singing with her music.
The 10.5-metre catamaran, the Blue Dolphin is the smallest commercial whale-watching boat amongst the assembly of boats that transport eager whale-watchers out of south-east Queensland’s Hervey Bay.
Every whale has the same potential to interact and it is difficult to predict which whales to pursue.
The season for Whale watching Hervey Bay
Sometimes really active ones can become quiet for no obvious reason and vice versa, the quiet ones could be the ones that put on a good show.
The seasons for Hervey Bay whale watching have been getting longer and now start from late July to early November.
August is the best time to spot the curious whales, who are not involved in the breeding cycle, appear.
September or October is the time to watch the mothers with their calves.
Researchers believe that the humpbacks zero-in on their breeding and feeding grounds in response to cues such as current and temperature changes, and fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field.
In the midst of our Hervey Bay whale watching experience, a large boat pulls up and its passengers begin to chant the Dory song from Finding Nemo, hoping to lure our whales to their boat.
Instead, our whales have had enough and swim away into the horizon to the beat of Nina Centaine’s song Village on the Bay.
…Here no words can satisfy
The honour it is to gaze in their eyes
Village on the bay where the great wings play…
Discover Hervey Bay
The whales leave Antarctica to swim to warm waters in April/May. They arrive at the Whitsunday Islands in June/July. Hervey Bay whale watching season runs from late July to early November.
Researchers believe humpbacks live approximately 40-60 years. Humpbacks do not feed whilst on migration (5 months), but when they are in the Antarctic they consume up to 1,500 kg of krill each day.
A good time to go is during the Hervey Bay Ocean Festival in August each year. It’s a fun day out.
If you’re planning on going to the Hervey Bay Ocean Festival, check out the Blessing of the Fleet. It ends in a fantastic fireworks display. See more here