I am normally pretty unlucky with wildlife encounters! I remember a previous trip to Vancouver Island where after a failed 3 hour attempt at spotting orcas, I did another three hour trip that evening as part of the ‘guaranteed sighting’ deal and came away freezing cold and miserable having spotted nothing but seals. Killer whales my ass! This time though, in Hervey Bay, the god of the ‘chance encounter’ was certainly smiling at me. Hervey bay is known as the whale watching capital of the world for good reason. Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, does a great job at protecting Hervey bay from strong sea currents. This leaves a perfect bay for migrating humpback whales to have a rest on their way down from their breeding grounds up near to the Whitsundays to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic.
At this time of year, the seas around Hervey bay are full of mother and calf pairings, taking a rest to allow the calf to gain some strength for the migration ahead of them.
After just one hour cruising time from Hervey Bay we spot our first whales, a mother teaching her calf some fin slapping action, very entertaining! The next pair we come across were much less active, seem to be taking it easy, enjoying the view. I was already just thrilled to see these amazing creatures in such a beautiful place. We passed several more mothers and calves, the odd male, and a lone dolphin before the absolute cherry on top. I think we were just about to start our journey back to Hervey bay when we came across a lone male humpback, Harvey the Hervey bay whale, obviously desperate for our attention.
The closest distance you are allowed to approach the whales in the marine park is 100m. As we turned off the engines at a safe distance, Harvey spectacularly fully breached right out of the water and belly flopped back into the sea. It was one of those moments where I could not quite believe what I was seeing. It was so beautiful. I had been speaking to a German girl Anne, for just about 10 minutes, but we hugged each other with delight. Really special. We then had a complete treat. Harvey started going through a sequence of behaviours, coming closer and closer to our boat. We just stood there in astonishment as he repeatedly slapped his fins, then slapped his tail, then glided for a bit, followed by a full breach. He just kept repeating this over and over, at one point he was within touching distance to where we stood. We were actually over an hour late getting back to dry land as Harvey continued to circle round our boat repeating his tricks, and the local law states that we are not allowed to start our engines when a whale is so close. It was a very happy boat full of people that returned back just after dark that evening..