Thar she blows - how to hunt whales the friendly way

A grunt and a spurt of seawater rising into the air show the position of a mother humpback whale and her three-week-old calf.

I'm on purpose-designed whale watching boat and we have motored for an hour over the calm seas of the great sandy straits up the coastline of Fraser Island

Captain Phil tells the 50 or so people aboard that the tip of the island is where we will see the whales and he is right.

Our first mother and calf are a little shy at first, keeping the boat at a good distance but I can clearly see the much smaller calf swimming strongly beside its mother.

I'm fascinated by the large circles of calm water that float past us and Phil tells us these are whale footprints

"They break the water tension when they flick their tails to swim down resulting in the clear circles on the water,” Phil says.

Sailors used whale footprints to track whales back in the bad old days when whales were valued more for their blubber than their beauty.

Our next mother and calf are a little more playful and the little one flaps his flippers in the air as he rolls onto his back. He might just have finished feeding on some of the litres of milk the mother whale produces and releases a day. The baby filters the fat-laden milk, which has the consistency of yoghurt, from the water.

The waters around Fraser Island are known as a whale nursery where mother’s birth and build up their babies for the long swim back to summer in Antarctica.

Humpback whales like to holiday around Fraser Island and Hervey Bay from August to October. Experts estimate around 4,000 humpbacks spend anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks sheltered in the waters taking time out from their migration.

For this trip we left the jetty at Fraser Island around 7.45 and returned back at around 1pm, a little later than planned.

Cloudy skies and the threat of rain made for some dramatic scenery on the way home.

We didn’t see any tail slapping or breaching behaviour but if I had a three-week old baby I probably wouldn’t be doing that either.  Friends who went out the next day saw a group of young males making plenty of splashes.

It was a great day out on the water.

Kingfisher Bay Resort 

Best tip: Do take a camera with a long lens.
Bottom line:  Could be an experience you will remember for a long time.

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort


  1. The last time we went out it was on Whale One and we saw one baby that was out of the water more than he was in. It was the cutest thing ever. The boat people said that he'd probably just had a huge feed and wanted to play. Just like any kid! :)

  2. It looks great, but that boat looks quite small and crowded compared to the number of people on board. And I'm wondering are the waters generally calmer if you go from Fraser Island as opposed of from Hervey Bay? (Realise that means two trips but advantage would mean a stay on Fraser Island ...)

  3. I actually thought the boat was quite big. It's probably hard to see from the photo but there were three levels with inside and outside viewing and more than enough space for everyone. I always felt I had an excellent vantage point. You can probably get boats with less people but they may also be more expensive. The water was very calm during our trip and staying on Fraser saved about an hour on the boat as it departed from Hervey Bay and then picked us up.


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