The Hervey Bay Ocean Festival runs for 10 days in August every year. It offers a jam-packed program celebrating the whale watching season in Hervey Bay, the whale-watching capital of the world. There are a number of iconic events as part of the Hervey Bay Ocean Festival. These include the Blessing of the Fleet, the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival, the Hervey Bay Whale Parade and Concert and culminates in the Paddle Out For Whales.
The Paddle Out For Whales occurs on Sunday morning on the second weekend. It is the final event of the Festival and in particular, supports the connection with the ocean that Hervey Bay’s local community has with humpback whales.
From approximately 600 whales in the 1960’s, there are now over 25,000 humpback whales, due to conservation and awareness efforts of people who care about these magnificent mammals.
The Paddle Out event runs from 8am to 2pm and is based at Scarness Park in the seaside suburb of Scarness. The Scarness Pier is the main attraction of the park, offering stunning views of the bay and local beaches.
EVERYONE PADDLE OUT
The Paddle Out commences with the Aloha Mai E Chant, performed by Leandra Gurbiel from the main stage.
This haunting chant leads hundreds of people on kayaks, ourselves included, as well as stand up paddle boards, surf skis, in fact, anything that floats.
We all head out into the cold ocean to pay our homage to the humpback whales.
I chuckle as people on blow-up whales and other amusing inflatable crafts join in to form a circle, about 100m from the beach.
Once we’re all in places, a one-minute silence is called over the speaker system.
A drone whirrs high above, recording the event. We all bow our heads in respect, desperately trying not to bump into each other as the gentle current sweeps us off our positions.
My bottom is starting to get cold sitting in our sit-on-top kayak, semi bathed in cold sea water. Thank god I put extra layers on this morning! Despite the glorious blue sky and sunny day, there’s still a chill in the air.
When the minute of silence is over, we all cheer and clap to celebrate the start of the activities back on shore.
The floating crowd slowly dissipates to the beat of the Hervey Bay Dragon Boat crew and hum of the engine of the Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours vessel, as we all head back to shore to warm up.
LET THE PARTY BEGIN
There is a full schedule to be enjoyed over the rest of the day. It’s a fun programme for kids of all ages.
The Aloha Ohana Hawaiian Dancing troop entertain and encourage people from the crowd to join in and there’s plenty of live music.
We are fascinated by an interactive talk from environmental speaker Dr. Gayle Mayes from the University of Sunshine Coast (USC). She expounds the beauty and
She expounds the beauty and wellbeing benefits of personal interaction and experiences with animals, in particular, marine mammals such as dolphins and whales, which was the subject of her own Ph.D.
I know from personal interactions with the feeding of stingrays in Tahiti and dolphins in Tangalooma, as well as swimming with sharks in Fiji and humpback whales in Tonga, how life changing this can be.
It is truly amazing how these events change your perspective on animal and environmental conservation forever.
As the festivities conclude and another successful Ocean Festival comes to an end, let us not forget that the amazing whale-watching season in Hervey Bay continues through to 31st October.
Don’t miss it. Hervey Bay is extra special with Platypus Bay here on the Fraser Coast being home to the humpback whales for many weeks to come.
Enjoy it while they are here. You won’t regret it!
Irene and Tony Isaacson travelled at their own expense.