Humpback whales

Eastern Australia is a great place to see Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) as they migrate north (May-August) to warmer waters to mate and give birth, then travel south again (September to November) to feed on the krill-rich Antarctic waters. My wife would spend all day on coastal headlands near Coffs Harbour if I let her, binoculars glued to her face looking for the tell-tale puff of spray on the horizon.

These photos were taken on a family whale watching trip at Coffs ten years ago, which we repeated last year. Its always up to the whales if they come near the boats (there are legislative restrictions on how close boats can actively approach, so the spotters direct the boat to where the whales might be heading and once reaching the allowed distance, everyone then hopes and prays the whales will come over to investigate). You can see from the photo below how close to the shore these ones came.

Its always a thrill if the whales do a little more than sail past. The most dramatic behavior is breaching, where they leap almost from the water and crash back down – I’ve only seen this from a distance. Other behaviors are spy hopping, where the whale will suspend upright with its head out of the waves looking about, slapping its fins or tail, and finally diving so the tail can be clearly seen.

There are many vantage points up and down the Australian coast and plenty of whale watching businesses to take you out to see these magnificent mammals. Definitely a bucket-list must do. There is a phone app Wild about Whales which will show you what species have been spotted each day and where, which is enough to make you quit work and move to the coast to spend your days on a headland with your own binoculars!

Mammal watching total = 13

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