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Whale Watching

Whale watch, 26 July 2018

I wanted to write up a few of my previous whale watch trips to share, the ones that really stick in my mind. One such trip was last year for my birthday.

I’d just the day before picked up a new camera lens and was looking forward to taking it out for a spin.

I headed down to Sea World Whale Watch on the Gold Coast for their morning tour and we headed out towards the Gold Coast Seaway at 10am.

The conditions were stunningly calm – flat as a tack, total glass out and barely a breath of wind. It made searching for ‘the blow’ a lot easier. (‘The blow’ looks like a puff of smoke above the water and occurs when the whales surface to breathe. The ‘smoke’ is actually their exhalation of air.)

First encounter

You can JUST make out the baby dorsal fin!

We hadn’t been looking all that long when we spotted a blow not too far in the distance; it looked to be a single adult humpback. It was only as we got closer that we realised SHE had a calf with her!

And it was a NEWBORN! 😍

Taking into account the pale colour of the calf as well as how ‘rubbery’ the calf’s skin looked (and the dorsal fin was still ‘floppy’) we were guessing that the calf was, at most, about a week old but probably younger. So really quite new.

We turned off the engines and sat in the water a couple of hundred metres away to see what the mother would do – they tend to be quite protective of their calves, particularly when they’re so young as this one was. We never want to harass these animals – it’s their turf and all interaction is on their terms. To our surprise – and great delight! – the mother didn’t seem all that nervous. She started actively nudging her calf toward our boat.

Up close and personal

How’s that size difference?

What followed was a magical hour or so. We hung out with this mum and bub, with the mum guiding her baby towards the boat repeatedly. This happened at least 3 or 4 times (it could have been more – I was almost beside myself with glee at the opportunity we were being gifted with!), and at least twice she brought bub right alongside the boat for a nice close look. (When I say ‘alongside the boat’, I mean – LITERALLY – less than 5 metres from the back of the boat.)

Close enough that they were able to eyeball us – ever been eyeballed by a whale? It’s something, alright! – and actually see the calf’s baleen bristles when he snapped open his mouth at one point.

Who is watching who here?

What was so incredibly special about this was how completely relaxed both mother and calf were. Generally with mothers being so protective of their calves, IF they approach boats then the mothers tend to place themselves between the vessels and their offspring as a protective measure. Totally understandable.

But this mother… she was more than happy to stay on the OUTSIDE so there was nothing between the boat and her baby! 😳

I can’t even begin to imagine why all this happened, what the mother’s motivation was. Was she bringing her young over to get it used to the boat and the weird two-legged beings onboard? Was she bringing the baby over to show off her incredibly cute offspring to the humans? (Completely justified, btw.) Was she simply curious? Who knows. What I do know is that the amount of trust shown to us that day was mind blowing and truly humbling.

Calfs are about the size of the mother’s head

These are beautiful, gentle, intelligent creatures. We are so incredibly blessed to be able to spend even a small amount of time with them. And when they choose to interact with us and show as much curiosity about us as we do them… WOW. ❤️

Without a doubt, easily one of my absolute favourite whale watching experiences. Interactions like that leave my heart full. 🥰

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