In winter, as you walk around the lighthouse in Byron Bay, you can see Humpback whales on their annual migration to the Great Barrier Reef. From numerous vantage points, as you peruse the ocean, you may catch sight of these magnificent creatures spouting and occasionally breaching. Although it is always a thrill, indeed I feel cheated if I walk and don’t see any whales, I am always aware that I’m on the land and they’re in the sea, a long way away.
A WHALE OF A TIME BEGINS
I longed to get up close and personal, so last week, Kenn and I embarked on a whale watching trip to Hervey Bay, approximately 450 kms north of Byron Bay. We traveled mid week, hoping to avoid the crowds and chose to stay at the Mantra hotel located on the Boat harbour at Urangan. Our room came complete with a very comfortable king size bed, a spa bath and a balcony with a view over the harbour. Perfect spot for admiring sunrise and sunset.
Having settled in, we explored our surroundings. We confirmed our booking for our Whale Watch on Quick Cat II. We selected the Day Away for Early Birds tour which included a half day whale watching adventure and an afternoon at Kingfisher Bay on Fraser Island. That sorted, Kenn and I chilled out for a couple of hours before salivating over a sensational seafood dinner at La Baelana Cafe on the boardwalk, just a few steps from our hotel. The Hervey Bay prawns and scallops were better than a Masterchef finale. I would recommend booking, as this cafe is very popular.
Friday morning dawned calm and clear: perfect conditions for whale watching. The Quick Cat II was underway promptly at 7am and breakfast, consisting of fresh fruit, cereals, pancakes and muffins, was served as we made our way past Fraser Island into the bay. Soon, we were in Whale territory. Several pods were steaming towards us. The captain cut the engines and the magic began as they swam up to our boat.
I couldn’t believe it, they were right there and I was so close I could see rainbows in the spray as they swam past. Then they dived under the ship to the other side, coming up to look at us. “They re mugging us,” the captain exclaimed. “They can see and hear us, so wave your arms and yell!” Obediently, we waved frantically, yelled and whistled.
The whales must have liked our response for they kept us company for the next hour or so. The sunlight filtered through the water and cast shifting patterns on their bodies as they cruised beside us, just below the surface.
Then, when you least expected it, they would breach. The most spectacular breach was right in front of the boat, but I was so awestruck, that I forgot that I had a camera in my hand. Alas I only caught the after splash.
They frolicked the morning away, rolling over to show us their tummies,
swimming away only to return and begin their performance again.
But all wonderful experiences come to an end. The sun was directly overhead and it was time to return to the harbour. Our friends of the deep, waved us farewell.
Everyone was quiet as we cruised to Kingfisher Bay, where some of us were finishing the cruise. I think we were all savouring the moment. I overheard a little six year old poppet exclaim to her grandparents, “This has been the bestest day ever!” Yes, some dreams do come true.