A Whale Story

Bobbing up occasionally to stare at me with soulful eyes, as the black and white leviathan circled the boat I found it hard to believe that, when it came to biology, this giant sea-creature had more in common with me than it did with the barramundi I'd scoffed last night for dinner.

We're humpback whale watching on Queensland's Fraser Coast and, quite frankly, I'm hooked!  

Early August sees the official start to whale watch season and it runs until the end of October. Right now, we're getting a preview and I'm in the thick of things aboard the Quick Cat II with Skipper Brian Perry.

Brian and his wife Jill pioneered whale watching in Hervey Bay and, some 23 years later, they have teamed with Fraser Island eco-resort Kingfisher Bay to run whale trips direct from the island to Platypus Bay, where I'm told the whales like to wallow.

Steaming north past Yathlon, a sand dune that looks strangely like a whale tail, Brian draws comparisons between these sea giants and my good self.

Apparently their body stays at a constant temperature, much like humans; at some stage of their life they have some hair on their bodies; it's believed they have a similar bone structure and life span to us; and the female of the species can't hold a tune, which I reluctantly admit sounds all too familiar.

So, too, their circulatory and respiratory systems take in oxygen and transport vital substances around the body; their digestive system is of a similar type to mine; they give birth to live young; and, like me, they've chosen to take some time out on the Fraser Coast.

 Lucky for me my weight, even with the rich holiday-diet, falls a long way short of 40 tonnes – and it's here, thank goodness, that our similarities end.

During the course of whale watching season, about four to five-thousand humpbacks will spend anywhere from a day or two to two weeks relaxing and nurturing their young in the sheltered lee of Fraser Island. 

It's easy to draw a parallel to the large numbers of tourists that fill the resorts and camping areas on Fraser – relaxing and nurturing their young on the world's largest sand island.

For holidaymakers travelling to the Fraser Coast from August to September to whale watch, there is the added bonus of visiting World Heritage-listed Fraser Island and combining the best nature has to offer in one very convenient nature escape.

Staying at Kingfisher Bay Resort, an eco-tourism haven conveniently secreted in a natural sand amphitheatre on the western side of the island, means you can combine your whale watching with a healthy dose of eco-tourism, nature walks, bush tucker talks, four-wheel-driving on sand and track.

Kingfisher also offers a fully-guided Beauty Spots tour of Fraser Island where you can exfoliate with Lake McKenzie's golden sands and snap a picture perfect shot of the Maheno shipwreck's rusting hulk.

Fraser Island is a utopian mass of sand – it offers nature lovers the chance to feel golden granules between the toes, surrounded by pure white sandy beaches, the blue, blue water of Lake McKenzie and those splendid humpbacks.

For more information visit www.kingfisherbay.com.

Know your Whale Speak

The Humpback is the most active of all the great whales. Typical surface behaviours include:

Spy hop – occurs when the whale rises vertically in the water with their eyes just out of the water.  The whale maintains this position for a while, before slipping beneath the surface,

Foot print - When a whale dives, the up-thrust of its tail drives water toward the surface. On the surface this can be seen as a round, calm area of flat water, known as a whale's footprint.

Pectoral slap – The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins.  During the pectoral slap, the whale rolls onto its side and slaps its fin against the side of the water.

Breach – This happens when a whale propels two-thirds of its stocky body out of the water – then falls back with an almighty splash.  Often times the whale can clear two-thirds of its considerable body out of the water.

Peduncle slap – This is a forceful move where the peduncle (area from the dorsal fin to the tail) and flukes are thrown out of the water and slapped back down.

Tail Slap – Occurs when the body of the whale is submerged and the tail slaps against the surface.

Fluke Up – If the flukes are high above the surface this usually signifies a deep dive.

 

  • In keeping with full disclosure, author Jodi Clark was a media manager for Kingfisher Bay Resort at the time this was written. She has, however, written this as a whale watch novice who is now totally at one with her similarities to our flippered friends.

 

Ends.

Name: Jodi Clark
Word Count: 850

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