It was a short walk from our hotel to the beautiful Darling harbour in Sydney. Darling harbour is lined with loads of nice cafes and restaurants, and is also home to Madam Tussaud’s wax museum and the Sydney Aquarium. But we were not here for life like figures or exotic fish in tanks, we were here for to experience Humpback Whales in their natural environment.
Every winter, from May until November, Humpback whales migrate from the cold fertile waters of the Southern ocean to the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. They don’t do it for food, there is actually not enough food in these warmer waters to even justify the energy that would be expended for them to eat. The whales swim north so that thy can give birth to their young in warmer waters.
Part of their migratory path is past Sydney, making it a great base to spend a day whale watching. We joined a lunch tour with Oz Whale Watching. You board the ship at around noon. There are two levels to the boat, an outside deck on the upper level, and a lower enclosed level. You can rush upstairs to one of the sunny tables on the upper level, but top tip: people seated on the lower deck get served lunch first!
A buffet BBQ lunch is available on the ship with tea and coffee making facilities. Upstairs there is also a bar if you want to purchase some drinks. As you fill up on some lunch you will begin making your way out of the Sydney harbour. Our host was full of stories about Sydney’s history, we learned about how badly the now upscale suburb of Mossman used to smell, and how Chowder Bay got it’s name.
Just as we were finishing up our lunch, we began to make our way past the heads of the harbour and into the open seas.
Now that we were out on the open seas we had to start keeping our eyes peeled for the tell tale water spout of a whale taking a breath. After leaving the calm and sheltered waters of the harbour, our boat started to gently rock in the waves. I’m prone to sea sickness, so I confined myself to the lower rear part of the boat, where there was less movement in the boat.
We saw some boats out in the distance. “It looks like they have found some whales over there,” our host tells us. But we have reports that there are some other whales just further on.
Oz Whale Watching has a strong sense of ethical tourism and Eco-responsibility. They try to ensure that the whales are as comfortable as possible with their presence. “These whales travel thousands of miles, and don’t eat anything on their journey. The last thing we want to do is frighten or stress them, and make them expend any more energy than necessary,” he explains. That’s why we aren’t going to go to the whales that already have two or three other boats around them. Instead we continue on our journey.
Soon we are rewarded. What we thought to be one whale turns out to be two. We take it slow, coming slowly up to the whales so that they become comfortable with our presence. The whales paid us no mind, and we stay near them for quite some time. They calmly swam beside the boat (luckily on the same side as I was sitting, as I was starting to feel a bit green), occasionally diving down and showing their massive tails above the water, before surfacing again and expelling the steam of their breath into the cold winter air.
The whales didn’t breach or do any spectacular tricks, but considering that they were a long way from their next meal, we were quite understanding. If a whale breaches it could mean that it is feeling playful, but it is more likely to mean that it is feeling stressed or threatened by the boats buzzing around it. So the fact that our whales were just calming swimming next to us, speaks a lot to the responsible tourism efforts of Oz Whale Watching.
Whats makes Oz Whale Watching different?
- Strong focus on responsible tourism
- The boat does not crowd the whales
- The boat avoids areas where other boats are congregating, both giving you a more personal experience with the whales, and also providing a less stressful experience for the whales
- The boat approaches whales slowly, so as not to cause them unnecessary stress
- The company participated in the Wild About Whales Sightings Network Whale Migration Monitoring Program.
- In an effort to reduce it’s carbon footprint, the company endeavours to minimize waste and use recycled materials as much as possible.
- The tours are eco certified by Eco Tourism Australia
- Oz Whale Watching provides donations to eco-charities around Australia