June 29, 2014

WHALES off Sydney Harbour

Over the last few years, increasing numbers of whales have decided to take a detour into Sydney Harbour during their annual migration up and down the east coast of Australia.

The 2014 Whale Watching season that commenced on 17 May is no exception to previous years. Whales making their way north to the warmer waters for their breeding season, have been entering Sydney Harbour and sighted close to Manly, to the joy of everyone lucky enough to witness the spectacle.

For all those who want to get up close to the whales as they continue their journey up the coast, the best way is to take a whale watching cruise. These cruises provide an opportunity to experience the thrill of seeing these elegant creatures blowing a spout of water as they come to the surface and then dive back under the water.

I recently decided to become a tourist in my own city and headed down to Sydney’s Circular Quay where I joined Captain Cook Cruises’ afternoon whale watching cruise that departed at 1.30 pm. I was told all their whale watching cruises come with a whale guarantee and that if a whale was not spotted, all passengers would be offered the opportunity to cruise again for free. I knew I could not go wrong with a guarantee like that.

See Whales on Captain Cook Cruises Whale watching CruisesOnce on board, I headed up to the open top deck of the large modern ocean-going catamaran to find a seat. After leaving Circular Quay and passing the Opera House, we headed for Taronga Zoo, where we picked up more passengers as well as our informative guide Mel, who also worked at the zoo as a marine expert.

The catamaran then sailed out of Sydney Harbour and through the heads to open waters, where we were all eager to catch a glimpse of our first whale in its natural environment. As we looked, Mel’s commentary taught us just about everything there was to know about the whales, which we were soon to see. There was great excitement when the first whale spout was seen, with everyone having their cameras ready when it appeared out of the water, before diving back under again, providing a magnificent view of its large tail. This first sighting was quickly followed by a pair of whales swimming side by side, staying in view for quite a while, as our boat followed their progress up the coast.

Most whales are found within 2kms of the shore. The majority of whales seen along the New South Wales coast are Humpback and Southern Right Whales, with the occasional sighting of Killer and Minke whales.

The cruise returned to Circular Quay at 4.15 pm. The Sydney whale watching season goes through to16 November 2014 after the whales head back down the coast with their calves. http://www.captaincook.com.au

Sandra Tiltman