Friday, October 13, 2017


For our last day here at Dunsborough in the Margaret River Country, we decided to take a whale watching trip in Geographe Bay. People here are fortunate in that they have whale migrations for over half the year as Humpback, Southern Right, and Blue Whales all pass by. The humpbacks spend about six months in the area as they travel north after feeding in the rich Antarctic waters and then traveling north of Australia to mate and calve. Then they head back south to feed again off the coast of Antarctica. Approximately 35,000 humpbacks pass by in both directions. We are here for the southern migration as they head to Antarctica for the summer.

Our shuttle - ten at a time
We chose to head out on the morning trip in the hope that the wind would be less of a factor early in the day. While mostly overcast, there was virtually no wind as we headed out into the bay. No telling how far out we might go since the whales often stick around in the bay and its calm shallow water. For half an hour we only saw hints of whales in the distance. Few birds either, something I had hopes to see a more than a few of. What we did see was three Australian Gannets and two Crested Terns. The gannets are new for us, so that was fun, but we had hoped for more.

Our first views of the humpbacks
Would this be all we got?

Then we saw some whales fairly close so our skipper slowed and steered in their direction. Whales, like all wild creatures, are independent of human needs. Some will move away when humans are near; others will come closer as if to say hi. The first whales we saw seemed to be more anti-human, but they were soon replaced by a pod of five that at least didn’t run away from us as we slowly worked to stay within sight of them.

A little better
After watching them breathe, spout, and dive for half an hour or so, one of the whales rolled over on its back and began waving its fins at us. We had never seen this behaviour before, so it was quite exciting and went on for several minutes. At this point Rhett, our guide, made a comment about this being the beginning of the end. I think he meant that it was time to turn back. We had seen all we were going to see today.

Now it gets interesting

Waving at us?
Or waving goodbye?
At almost that exact moment, one of the whales performed a sky hop within about ten meters from us. No one was ready so I’m pretty sure there were no pictures. I know I was disappointed because I missed the opportunity and I expected that having seen that, we were going to head for home. We had already been out beyond our scheduled two hours. But within moments another whale sky hopped. Before long others were joining in the fun, even some that were quite a distance away. Rhett told us that it is quite common for one sky hop to lead to others even far away as it seems to be a form of communication. At any rate we spent the next half hour watching these whales perform just for us. We also saw some more waving and a couple of the whales do some tail slapping. The power of these actions is amazing and even at a distance the noise them make hitting the water was audible. Anyone small boat too close would easily have been capsized in the splash and waves that followed each landing.

Now we get excited

Eventually, the activity slowed down and we headed back to shore and even along the way we could see more activity in the distance. While talking to Rhett and the skipper, we also learned about another trip we could take during the summer off the southern coast that focuses on orcas, but includes the expectation of seeing other whales including pilot, beaked, and sperm whales. They also expect to see dolphins, fur seals and sea lions in addition to lots of fish and many extraordinary sea birds. It is expensive at $385, but we will definitely look into that trip when we return to Australia.
We hope you enjoy the pictures.

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