FRASER COAST: Over the past thirty years Hervey Bay has cemented its position as the winter whale watching capital of Australia… after all, 12,000 holidaying humpbacks – each with brains seven-times the size of an average human's – just can't be wrong.
As Migaloo the white whale cavorts in Queensland waters and shines a lily-white beacon on the start of the migration season, we reveal what's new for wannabe whale watchers in Queensland's bay of plenty.
Life Under The lens: Who can forget those spectacular shots of humpbacks breaching and falling in spectacular fashion that appear in our social feeds like clockwork every winter? In this digital age, snapping the perfect holiday photo is as much about having the 'brag factor' as it is about capturing the moment for posterity.
With this in mind, family-owned- and-run whale boat, Freedom Whale Watch & Charters is giving would-be whale watchers on their 58-foot catamaran the ultimate travel souvenir with the launch of their brand-new, small-group photography sessions.
Captain Keith and his crew are teaming up with local wildlife-photographer-cum-gallery-owner, Michael Smith for two extra-special whale photography cruises on August 21 and September 2.
Just six passengers will be able to pre-book the classes and team up with Michael for a hands-on, interactive session and one-on-one instruction in the art of whale photography. From close-ups to those splash downs, these full-day photography / whale watching tours are a first for Hervey Bay and are priced at $270pp.
Remote Fraser And Whales: Lloyd and Robyn Burgess from Tasman Venture sent ripples through the region when they launched their Remote Fraser Island eco-tour back in 1995. Here was a product that skirted remote and untouched parts of the world's largest sand island, sailed past Yathlon – a sand dune in the shape of a whale's tail – and allowed time to bush-walk or snorkel, kayak and swim in gem-toned waters on the fringe of World Heritage wilderness.
This season, they're improved on perfection with the launch of a second vessel, the Island Venture, by limiting the number of guests to 20 and by adding a four-person 'swim with whales' option in the calm waters off Hervey Bay. They call the tour Remote Fraser and Whales, but realistically it's a full day out that offers two wildlife wonders in one and rivals any National Geographic documentary. As an added bonus, the vessel's amphibious watercraft, SeaLegs, drives guests right up onto Fraser Island's sandy shores, for guests who don't want to get wet.
Tours run from 07.30am until 4pm and cost $195 for adults. Family packages are available and bookings are essential.
Humpback Utopia: Humpback whales might have the run of the ocean, but did you know these 40-tonne giants are spooked by tiny bubbles? It's just one of the reasons the folks from Hervey Bay choose to swim and not dive with their holidaying humpbacks.
The swim-with concept – essentially coming eye to orange-sized eyeball with a gigantic whale – is an adrenaline-charged experience that's taken off in recent years in Hervey Bay, but 2017 marks the first year a dedicated 'swim-with' boat will join the Fraser Coast fleet.
Hervey Bay Dive Centre's brand-new Whale Swim and Watch* is a small-group, full-day tour in every sense of the word. Each day, twelve wetsuit-clad swimmers head out for an immersive eco-experience, just a metre above the ocean aboard the low-riding MV Utopia.
Swimmers, attached to a mermaid line off the back of the boat, float out into whale territory if conditions are right and it's there that the magic truly happens. In these parts, whale sightings are 100% guaranteed and, with humpbacks who are every bit as curious as the ogling holidaymakers, intimate moments in and on the water are assured.
Tours start from $110 and include the swim-with experience, wetsuits and equipment, transfers and meals. Family packages are available but children need to be over eight years to swim.
*Swims are dependant on conditions and cannot be guaranteed. Permits restrict swimming with mothers and calves.
Geek Chic Makes A Splash: It's not easy being green, but it's downright effortless for the crew of the Pacific Whale Foundation. Not only have their onboard scientists led vital whale research in region since 1980, but local research, have been at fore in terms of having Hervey Bay recognised for its ecological significance as a vital whale habitat.
This year, their brand-new, super-charged, rigid inflatable zodiac - the Ocean Defender - armed with a team of certified marine naturalists and scientists, will make a splash in the waters around Hervey Bay. Aboard, would-be researchers and eco-warriors can witness life on a bonafide research boat with all the thrills and intimacy that whale watching in these calm waters provides. And, best of all, all profits support the Oceania Foundation's vital whale research in region. Tours start from $60 for three hours and depart several times a day.
With balmy tropical weather and an abundance of whales, Hervey Bay is the perfect antidote to the winter blues and a perfect meeting spot for man and ocean beast. Visit http://www.visitfrasercoast.com/whales to book a soul-stirring encounter.
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Author: Jodi Clark
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