This fabulous afternoon cruise will give you the opportunity to see whales in Sydney as they migrate up and down Australia’s east coast. Enjoy commentary from a qualified marine biologist throughout the experience. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
While walking along the Manly esplanade recently, I happened to catch sight of a spout of water some distance out to sea.
Sadly, there wasn’t a further glimpse of the whale responsible, but the experience captured my imagination. So I was delighted to have the opportunity not long after to see whales in Sydney on an afternoon cruise with Fantasea Cruising.
We set out from Sydney’s Darling Harbour on a crisp and clear winter’s day. As we pass under the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House comes into view, and I’m reminded of just how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful city.
Our guide Kirsten — a qualified marine biologist — highlights points of interest as we cruise through Sydney Harbour. This is one of the busiest harbours in the world. The regular Wednesday afternoon sailing regatta provides a pretty backdrop as we make our way out through the heads and onto the open ocean.
Whale watching cruises like this one are big business in Sydney, and attract more than 1.5 million guests annually. Everyone is hoping to spot some of the several species of whales that migrate up Australia’s east coast from Antarctica, and back down later in the year. Humpbacks and southern rights are the most common whales sighted. Their destination is the warm, tropical waters of the Pacific, where they will feed and calve. In spring, they turn around and make use of the East Australian Current to facilitate their journey back to Antartica’s waters.
With front and rear decks, and a rooftop viewing area, there’s plenty of space for each of the 40 guests onboard our sleek catamaran to have an unimpeded view of the water. There are national guidelines that apply to all whale and dolphin watching cruises in Australia. Our boat is required to stay a minimum of 100 metres from any whale we see (250 metres from a mother and calf), but if a whale approaches us we can stay where we are until it moves off.
Once clear of the harbour heads, Captain Dean sets a course north — and within a few minutes we see a tell-tale spout of water in the distance. A whale exhales through its blowhole at a rate of up to 450 kilometres per hour, resulting in a fine spray that can reach several metres in height.
As we scan the watery horizon, the feeling of excitement grows. Suddenly, someone gives a shout! I turn just in time to see an enormous splash as a whale breaches heavily nearby, spraying water in two arcs that looked like the wings of a great bird. It’s an extraordinary sight, and everyone gasps in wonder.
Kirsten tells us that it’s often the adolescent males that put on such a display, as they try to attract the attention of a female nearby.
It could be five to fifteen minutes before the whale resurfaces and I’m reminded of game drives growing up in South Africa, where patience is essential. We don’t have to wait for too long as it turns out. Over the next two hours we catch sight of the dorsal fins of a number of whales as they power north. They are travelling at roughly five to ten kilometres per hour and blowing great sprays in the air as they surface.
We also see two more breaches. One is so close that I can clearly make out the marks on the white underside of the whale.
Dean keep us out on the water for as long as he can, but eventually it’s time to turn the boat around and head for home. It’s been a wonderful afternoon in the company of these extraordinary animals.
Joanne travelled as a guest of Fantasea Cruising.
Additional images: Bigstock
Joanne Karcz is a Sydney-based writer and blogger. She published a blog when she walked the Camino de Santiago some years ago and has been writing about her travels ever since. She is also an aspiring travel photographer and takes her camera wherever she goes. Joanne has travelled through Europe, South America and Southern Africa. She loves discovering new things to see and do in her own Sydney backyard, and blogs regularly about the city’s suburbs.