It seems ridiculous, but up until Sunday I had a (slightly) irrational fear of whales. Despite this, Sunday was the most amazing wildlife encounter of my life, and I’m still buzzing! On a full day tour with Brisbane Whale Watching, I lost count of the number of beautiful humpback whales that I saw, only metres from our eco-friendly, luxury vessel. It was honestly the most exciting yet relaxing way to spend a day. I went with my Dad, who loves whales, and can now safely say I am not at all scared of whales anymore!
Scared of whales? Some of the most docile, intelligent and playful creatures on the planet? It seems irrational, I know.
It all started when I was three. My dad thought he’d surprise me with what he thought was the coolest attraction in Brisbane – the giant model whales hanging from the outdoor gallery at the Queensland Museum. Perched on his shoulders, he told me to close my eyes for a surprise.
Angled at 45 degrees downwards, I opened my eyes to find myself staring head on into the mammoth whale staring down at me. I’d seen beached whales on the TV a while ago, and had been having nightmares about these big “monsters”. My parents had reassured me that monsters don’t exist. Staring straight into the eyes of my nightmares, I jumped off his shoulders and army-crawled into the next room.
I’ve been slightly hesitant about whales every since. I didn’t hate them – I thought their protection and conservation was really important and was, and still am, horrified at the atrocities committed against such peaceful creatures in foreign waters. However, I wanted to stay as far away from them as possible.
I thought it was only fitting as I was with Dad when I became scared of them, that he come with me when I completely toss out that irrational fear.
Only a half-hour’s drive from Brisbane, the tour departs at 10:00am from Redcliffe jetty and returns at 2:30pm. The state-of-the-art luxury catamaran has won the hearts of scientists for “whale friendliness” and the hearts of customers for comfort and fabulous visibility from every deck and even the dining room. We zoomed out to the edge of Moreton Bay in only 40 minutes, much quicker than the usual ferries. The short travel time meant maximum whale-spotting time during the day.
I lost count of how many whales we saw, but every sighting was as exciting as the last. We saw spy hops (where they poke their head out of the water), tail flaps and saw their whole bodies weave across the surface of the water.
Brisbane Whale Watching Tours are run by Captain Kerry Lopez in her state of the art MV Eye Spy Luxury Catamaran, the most modern and eco-friendly whale watching vessel in Australia, which earned a rare endorsement for whale0-friendliness from Dr Rob McCauley of Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science & Technology. For more details on the boat, click here.
More impressive than the boat, it its captain. Captain Kerry was the second woman to get her Class Five Master Mariners Certificate and is the only female whale watching captain in the South Pacific Rim and started Brisbane Whale Watching.
The highlight of the day for me was when I noticed some whales out to the side of the boat, while I was eating lunch. I jumped up, and was heading to the nearest window when one of the crew suggested I duck out the back instead. I stepped on to the deserted back deck and saw the two whales, just over a metre from the end of the boat. Getting so close to them, especially by surprise, blew me away!
All day, the crew were striving to get the best possible sightings for the passengers. One of the crew alerted Captain Kerry to a sighting of whales breaching further away at Flinders Reef. All of the passengers were out on the decks, so we were told to hang on to the rails with both hands as she zoomed the boat to the reef. We approached slowly and although we missed the breaching, we saw many more sightings, including a few which came only metres from the boat. I was so impressed by the crew’s dedication to getting the best day possible for the passengers and the constant effort they went to. Even when we could see one or two whales, if we could see more whales or more active whales somewhere else they would take us there.
The whole day was seamless. Captain Kerry knew when to talk about the whales and what we were seeing, included some whale education and information about whaling. Watching these social, gentle creatures play in the water, swim up to the boat and stick with members of their pod, whaling became even more unthinkable.
How could someone see these beautiful creatures in the flesh, and then harpoon them with a weapon that would drive into the whale’s body and explode inside them, causing a slow, painful death? Luckily, whales are protected in Australian waters and can enjoy a safe calving period for their babies. Born without any flubber, pods will stay in warmer waters until the young calves have ‘blubbered up’ enough to withstand the cold arctic waters.
Morning tea, afternoon tea, a hot and cold buffet lunch (prawns! yum!) were provided and sea sickness tablets were also on hand – I took one just for peace of mind and I was fine all day. I loved that the decks wrapped around the entire boat and that there was plenty of room for everyone to get a good view, between the three levels of decks. The dining room had huge glass windows, so even when we had to tear ourselves away from the decks so we could have lunch, we could keep an eye on the whales.
I can’t think of a more enjoyable, relaxing, feel-good way to spend the day. It’s easy to forget to make the most of the experiences we have at our fingertips, rather than saving the tours and the sightseeing for only when we travel. I feel so lucky that I was able to do this in a day, right in my own back yard. I will definitely be back on board again next year!
Thank you to Brisbane Whale Watching for hosting me on this amazing day out.
Brisbane Whale Watching operates tours 7 days a week in whale season, from June to November. Tours depart Redcliffe Jetty at 9:30am and return by 2:30pm.
Adults $135, Children $95 or Family (2 A, 2C) for $365. Direct transfers from Brisbane, Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast can be arranged at an additional cost.
Whale sightings are guaranteed
P: 07 3880 0477