Each day Blue Dolphin Skipper, Pete Lynch, packs his lunch and leaves for the office. It's an office hemmed in by the gem-toned waters of Hervey Bay and the wild beauty of World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
On a good day, he'll skim the glassy-surface of Platypus Bay in his catamaran with humpbacks for company and the tang of their fishy morning breath in his nostrils. On a great day, he'll get mugged by them. Then, it's rinse and repeat and do it all again. But no one day is like the other in Australia's whale watching capital and that's what keeps the veteran skipper coming back year after year.
In a town that's mad for whales, why'd you name your boat the Blue Dolphin?
Unlike some of the bigger boats, when a 12m humpback comes up alongside our 11.6m Blue Dolphin, you really know it's a whale!
Funnily enough, the name came from a series of coincidences. On my very first trip to America as a 21-year-old, I bought a logoed shirt from a surf shop called the Blue Dolphin. It quickly became a favourite of mine. Fast forward seven years and I was back in Australia and looking to buy my very first boat. We found it in Townsville and, coincidentally, it was the same name as my favourite shirt. During those days we wanted to do dolphin tours and sunset sails, so it was a perfect fit in more ways than one.
Since those times we've had three identical vessels – all named the Blue Dolphin – and expanded our business to run humpback and marine tours. Oh, and I still have the original Blue Dolphin shirt today and it still fits!
You can whale watch up and down the east coast - why Hervey Bay?
That's the 64-thousand-dollar question!
I say to people that, on any given day, the weather conditions are better than the east coast of Australia and the whale activity is better. We have a beautiful, sheltered and protected bay, beside a World Heritage-listed island. It's two wonders in one place - the wonder of Fraser Island and the wonder of humpback whales that come back year after year.
Our humpbacks are not migrating. They're more relaxed and curious in these waters. And, when they mug our boats, it's obviously the whale's choice to be here.
Those that work here or have whale watched in Hervey Bay and have been elsewhere – they know the difference and that keeps them coming back.
Is it true Hervey Bay's humpbacks help you play Cupid?
My wife Jodie came on as a passenger on my very first trip on my very first boat back in 1999. I had five passengers on the Blue Dolphin and they had a great time. I didn't take too much notice of her as I was busy making sure everything was perfect. Jodie came again back with her male flatmate in 2001. There was a bit of interest, but I thought they were a couple and whale season was in full swing, so my mind was elsewhere. Every day Jodie and her friend would come down to the marina just to say hi. I was a bit dumb until a friend told me I needed to “give that girl a call.”
Since then, we've had a blind date turn into marriage and have had engagements and weddings on the boat. Whale watching is such an emotional experience and we offer a small, intimate encounters – it resonates with romantics.
Do you know a place on the Fraser Coast for landlubbers to watch whales?
You can't go past Indian Heads and 75-Mile Beach on Fraser Island. In fact, there were so many whales this past July that you could see them easily from the 4WD buses on Fraser's eastern beach. Air Fraser owner-pilot Gerry Geltch was even guaranteeing whale sightings, which he's never done in 30-odd years of flying.
Of course, it doesn't compare to on the water in Hervey Bay - you won't get mugged by a whale and you're not going to smell their krilly breath on land.
I was whale watching back in 2010 when a young female took a shine to the cat and stayed with us for three hours. She was the first humpback of the day and she swam over to us and that was as far as she got. For 3 hours and 10 minutes she never left us.
If you sat on the back step, she'd try and touch your feet. When a nearby male started singing she positioned herself in the tunnel of the boat and bounced the hydrophone off her back in response and the whole boat reverberated. She then rose slowly and let out the biggest breath which landed on us all. Everyone squealed, so she did it again.
She was around the boat. Under the boat. In the tunnel of the boat. After three hours, she swam slightly away and we had to run to escape her. She spun on a dime and chased us for a nautical mile in our wake. We didn't stop. We only saw one humpback that day, but what an encounter.
What's your dream for the future?
My dream is for Hervey Bay to be a recognised as a Whale Heritage site and then down the track, a Whale Sanctuary.
We need to recognise just how special this place is.
It's a place like no other and your time and experience will be like no other. The whales are relaxed and in a playful holiday state that makes for exceptional encounters. Our operators are all permitted and eco-accredited. We have the best government controls and, best of all, we're right beside Fraser Island.
Blue Dolphin tours run daily during the season and are priced at $150 for adults and $120 for children. Family packages are available. For more information visit: http://www.visitfrasercoast.com/whales
Word Count: 975
Author: Jodi Clark
This Press Release is supplied courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland. For more information, please go to www.queensland.com or www.blog.queensland.com. For images, please visit http://teq.lookat.me.com.au/. If you wish to reproduce this content in the online space, please contact the Tourism and Events Queensland Publicity Team.