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Whale Watch Blog

Welcome to the Tangalooma Whale Watch Blog.


Here, you can keep up to date with all of the action aboard our whale watching boat, and learn some interesting facts from our Eco Rangers. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015
Almost a Thousand Whales!!

Well, we’ve come to the end of our 2015 whale watching season now and sadly have to say good-bye to our humpback whales until they return next year. But it’s been an amazing season with a lot of incredible encounters this year! Aside from some spectacular displays from the humpback whales, some of the highlights of the 2015 season included having Aboriginal elders of the Quandamooka region on board to welcome the whales and share stories and songs with us. Another memorable day of course was when we sighted Migaloo, the all white albino humpback whale, again after a few years absence. And of course there were lots of other animals to see as well, including four species of dolphins (inshore and offshore bottlenose, common and Australian humpback dolphins), a dugong, sea turtles, a sea snake, flying fish, hammerhead sharks and lots of different sea birds.

In terms of the humpback whale numbers it’s been a bumper year for us. Over the 5 months of the whale season we sighted a total of 408 pods of humpback whales up close. These consisted of a total of 991 humpback whales we were lucky enough to encounter, just short of the 1,000! Those 991 whales included an incredible 82 newborn calves! These sighting numbers have been consistently increasing for us over the past few years with 695 humpback whales seen in 2012, 761 in 2013 and 812 in 2014. I think we can have high hopes of breaking the 1,000 mark next year!

Considering that this whale population had been hunted to near-extinction by the 1960’s with just 300 or so individuals left, we are just so lucky to see them recovering and coming back strong these days. Humpback whales are certainly one of the most impressive conservation success stories, which raises hopes for many other endangered species: with the right international protection and care, we can make a difference and we can save species and bring them back, even from the very brink of extinction!

Thank you for a fantastic year, whales, we’re already looking forward to welcoming you back to our shores in 2016!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Friday, 30 October 2015
Still plenty of action!

We are now coming to the end of the whale season, with only a couple of days of whale watching left before our humpback whales disappear again to spend the summer feeding down in Antarctica. The majority of whales have now passed through but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to see! In fact we had a fantastic whale watch cruise today, spending over an hour with three large adult humpback whales that put on an impressive show! They were all pectoral flipper slapping and breaching non-stop!

I suppose with there being fewer whales around at this time of the year, they may need to make more noise to find each other. The breaching and fin slapping is generally a form of communication and used to signal to other whales. These three whales actually joined up just after one of them had been breaching for a while, obviously calling the others over.

It certainly was a spectacular display for us to watch!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Thursday, 15 October 2015
Baby Whale Play Date

We had a great day today – conditions were lovely and we saw a total of four mother-calf pairs of humpback whales! The first two pairs were resting in the bay so we left them to it and headed towards the northern end of the island. Just as we rounded Comboyuro Point we spotted another pair, and the calf of this one was very active, practicing his breaching and even clearing the water completely several times! Before long this pair was joined by another mother and calf. The four of them stayed together for a good half hour, the mums seemed to be socialising and resting while the calves were having a play date, both slapping fins and tails on the water and breaching many times! Occasionally the mums would join in the games, nudging the calves, lifting them on their backs or pushing them through the water! It was very cute and an amazing experience to share in this humpback whale play time!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Monday, 12 October 2015
What's happening to the krill?

More baby whales today – in total we saw three pods of humpback whales today, all were mother and calf pairs. The babies were very playful and seemed to be practicing their breaches, jumping high up in to the air, many times in a row. Meanwhile the mums were just cruising slowly, resting or sleeping.

It’s fantastic to see so many calves coming through at the moment, giving a good indication how well this population is breeding and recovering. We have almost 20,000 humpbacks in the East Australian population again this year, which is certainly a long way up from the few hundred that were left after whaling stopped in the mid-1960s. Of course whales are now protected in most parts of the world, only very few countries still hunt them. But they still face a number of other threats, largely due to increasing human impacts. These include boat strikes – people driving too fast, not looking out for animals around them – and entanglement in fishing line or gear, including shark nets like the ones we have off the Gold Coast and other beaches around Australia.

A new big threat to the whales is that they are starting to lose their food source! Most of the great whale species predominantly eat krill (small shrimp) which have always been abundant in their feeding areas off Antarctica. But these days krill stocks are actually declining. A major reason for that is the increase in krill fisheries to supply the growing demand for krill oil tablets and similar food supplement products. Ironically krill oil has not actually been shown to have any substantial health benefits for humans (certainly none you couldn’t achieve by having a balanced healthy diet) – when you think about it, in the history of humankind, when have we ever eaten krill?? But suddenly media and TV advertising are telling us it’s a necessary addition to our diet… I’m finding that hard to believe. However, krill certainly is the main diet of the whales and also most other animals in the Antarctic ecosystem: fish eat krill, bigger predators like dolphins, seals, sharks eat the fish that eat the krill… They are all directly or indirectly dependent on that krill, it is the very basis of the Antarctic food web. And now we’re removing that foundation of the food web just for something unnecessary like krill oil tablets! Think twice before you buy these sorts of products, as they are having a very negative impact on all sorts of animals including our own humpback whales that migrate to Antarctica to feed!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Thursday, 8 October 2015
Amazing displays!

The past few weeks we have been having really fantastic whale watch cruises! The weather has been great with many beautiful calm days and the whales are coming through in large numbers now on their way back South towards Antarctica. We’re seeing lots and lots of little calves coming through now as well, usually several calves every day, travelling alongside their mums. These little ones are now about a month or two old and full of energy. There have been some amazing displays with babies practicing their breaches, jumping high up out of the water! Some days we’ve even been seeing both the mother and calf breaching together!

There’s been plenty of other marine life around as well, including dugongs, sea turtles (we even saw a pair of turtles mating at the surface!), dolphins and sea birds.

Now really is the best time to come whale watching, before the whales leave us again at the end of the month…

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
Whales in the Bay

We didn’t have to go far today, we spotted our first humpback whales right off Tangalooma Resort! It was a mother and calf pair and they were resting. The humpback whales tend to travel along the outside or ocean-side of Moreton Island which is why we usually have to make our way out to the northern end of the island to meet them as they come past. But during the last stage of the season, in September and October, we do sometimes encounter them inside Moreton Bay. Mostly it tends to be mothers with young calves that we see in the bay. They use these sheltered waters as a resting area.

When female humpback whales give birth, it is quite a strain on them! The mother has to travel 8,000 km north from Antarctica to the warm waters of the tropics, where she gives birth to a 1-tonne-baby. Then that baby drinks over 200 litres of milk from her every day! And the mother still has to travel another 8,000 km back south before she starts eating again (they do all their feeding in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, they don’t eat at all during migration or breeding!). It has been found that females that go through a breeding cycle actually lose about one third of their own body weight during that season!! So as you can imagine, they need a lot of rest stops along the way back south and they use sheltered bays like Moreton Bay for this purpose.

This mother today certainly seemed to be fast asleep! So we left them in peace and headed north, only to come across another mother-calf pair plus another adult just south of Bulwer, still inside the bay! These three were a bit more active and actually came straight to our bow, where the big adult lifted its head right up out of the water and had a good look at us! You could see the large eyes above the surface, looking at you! These kinds of encounters still give me goose bumps, when the whales are obviously as interested in us as we are in them!

Eco Ranger Ina


Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Monday, 21 September 2015
Whale Social Life

We got an interesting glimpse into the social life of our humpback whales today. As we rounded the North-western corner of Moreton Island we found a pair of whales in quite shallow water. It was a large adult and a smaller juvenile whale, possibly a mother with a one- or two-year old calf. The pair were just resting, cruising along very slowly.

But after a while the large female suddenly started rolling on the surface and repeatedly slapping her big pectoral flippers onto the water. Almost immediately we noticed another whale, about 500m away suddenly start splashing around as well, slapping its tail onto the water. This newcomer, a smaller juvenile or young adult, then started making a bee-line straight to our original pair, but just as it was about to join them, the original juvenile suddenly charged at the new one and chased him off! While the mum continued pec slapping, the new whale hung around them and kept making approaches towards them. Suddenly another two whales, also fairly small adults or juveniles, came into the area and all started chasing the large female. This caused her to start lunging through the water fast, breaching several times, and at one point actually charging straight towards our boat and diving underneath, maybe in an effort to get away?

It was a bit hard to interpret exactly what was going on, but the female certainly appeared quite agitated by the approaches of the other whales. Maybe they were three young males, hoping to mate with her. Either way, it made for some spectacular photo opportunities for us today!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Tuesday, 8 September 2015
Double Breach

Today’s whale watch had a bit of everything. We spent the first half of it with a mother and calf pair of humpback whales, in fact our first southbound mother and calf pair for this year! We’re now finally getting into the last part of the migration season, when the mothers return from the breeding grounds with their new babies from this year. The little one would have been about a month or two old and spent quite a lot of time taking long deep dives underneath mum, most likely nursing! Whales are mammals just like us, so their young drink milk. Whale milk is the second fattiest in the animal kingdom (after that of seals) – ten times fattier than the cow’s milk we drink and it has the consistency of toothpaste! A baby humpback whale, like the one we saw today, can drink over 200 litres of milk every single day!! They will nurse for up to a year to 18 months and stay by mum’s side for up to two years. During that time the calf learns important behaviour from the mother, such as the migratory route they travel each year as well as feeding and social behaviours.

After that we made our way a bit further out to catch up with another whale that we had noticed breaching in the distance. We got lucky and he/she breached a few more times once we got closer, before being joined by another two individuals.  We then got treated to a double breach with two of the whales breaching together at the same time, before they all continued on their journey! Double breaches are very rare and certainly impressive to see!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Perfect Conditions and Playful Whales

Another stunner of a day out on the whale watch today… Making our way out through the glassy calm waters of Moreton Bay we could clearly see the sky scrapers of Brisbane City in the distance, as well as the silhouettes of the Glasshouse Mountains at the Sunshine Coast, it was such a beautiful clear day! Perfect conditions in the open waters around Cape Moreton as well with barely a ripple on the water.

As we made our way out along the northern end of the island we were soon joined by a pod of 4 humpback whales, swimming in two pairs. They were just lazily rolling around in the shallow waters close to shore and came over to us for a good look at the boat a few times.

Moving on we then found another pod of 6 large adult humpbacks. These guys were a lot more active, charging and lunging through the water, likely chasing a female. They treated us to some spectacular big breaches right near the boat as well! Very exciting to watch!

To top it off we even had a rare sighting of a beautiful banded Sea Snake up at the surface for a breath of air, right next to the boat!

What a great day at sea!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Sunday, 30 August 2015
Spectacular Moreton Bay Wildlife

It was a gorgeous day out on the water today and the wildlife of Moreton Bay put on an amazing show for us! We saw five humpback whales today, one of which showed off some spectacular continuous breaches right next to our bow for a good 15-20 minutes.

But it was not just the whales joining us today, we also had a close encounter with a very relaxed Green Sea Turtle that stayed up at the surface for a good while, giving us a really good look. We are lucky to have large populations of sea turtles calling the Moreton Bay area home: around 10,000 Green Turtles, 2,000 Loggerhead Turtles and the odd Hawksbill and rare Leatherback Turtles live in these waters. Moreton Bay is an important feeding ground for turtles as it boasts extensive sea grass beds, coral reefs and other habitats that support them.

We finished our wildlife-filled afternoon with a pod of about 20 bottlenose dolphins that were foraging in the shallow waters under the Cape Moreton lighthouse. Some of them got a bit curious and came over for a closer look at us. There are over 600 inshore bottlenose dolphins living in Moreton Bay and probably quite a few more along the ocean side of Moreton Island. Out here in the open water they tend to form larger pods than inside the bay (where the average group size is around 5-6). This is for safety in numbers, out in the oceanic waters they would encounter more potential predators such as larger sharks which we don’t see in the bay.

We’re so lucky to still have large populations of even larger marine animals in Moreton Bay, such as our turtles, dolphins, dugongs and annual visitors like the humpback whales. But we need to look after our bay, if we want these beautiful creatures around for our kids and grand kids to see as well!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Thursday, 27 August 2015
Southward bound

We are now well into the second half of the humpback whale migration season. Today we saw 8 pods of whales, with 16 individual whales in total. And all of these were heading south, on the return leg of their long migration, back towards Antarctica. At the moment we’re mostly seeing adult whales and a few juveniles. These big adults have done their mating and socialising for the year up in the tropics and are now on the way back to the feeding grounds of Antarctica.

Over the next few weeks we should also start to see the new calves arriving soon – the last 2 months of the migration, September and October, are always my favourite. The new mothers are usually the last to leave the tropical breeding grounds where they have given birth to their new babies, as the babies need some time to build up energy and fat for the journey. These babies are about 1-2 months old by the time we see them here and are usually very active and playful… just like human toddlers – full of energy!

So from now on is a great time to come out whale watching, we should be seeing our first southbound calves any day now!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Sunday, 16 August 2015
Close Encounters

Over the last few days we’ve been having close encounters with some very friendly and curious humpback whales! We’ve been having whales approach us to within touching distance, lifting their big heads above the water to look at us (spyhopping!) and even seen some huge breaches right next to the boat.

We’re now right in the middle of the humpback whale migration. We’re still seeing the last few stragglers heading north but also now encountering a lot of groups on their return journey back towards Antarctica. Usually on the way south they tend to be a bit more relaxed, travelling more slowly and taking their time to interact with us and do a spot of people watching!

They certainly are very intelligent and inquisitive creatures and it is always an amazing experience to come eye to eye with such a large animal and see them looking back at you, just as interested in you as you are in them!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
A White Whale!!!

Today was a very exciting whale watch cruise… We had already heard the news that an all white humpback whale was spotted off the Gold Coast yesterday, making his way north, meaning he should be passing through our area sometime today. And sure enough, when we got out there, we managed to find him just North of Flinders Reef, slowly travelling North!

White whales are extremely rare, there are thought to be only four known all white humpback whales in the world. One of them (named “Willow”) lives in the Arctic, in the northern hemisphere. The other three are all members of our East-Australian population. The most famous white whale of course is Migaloo who was first spotted off the East coast of Australia 24 years ago, in 1991. He was thought to be a young adult then so should now be in his late 20’s early 30’s, in other words a fully grown male (his gender was confirmed by DNA testing of a skin sample). He has been making regular appearances along our coastline for the last 20 years or so. Another white adult called Bahloo was first seen around the Great Barrier Reef in 2008, but has been spotted much less frequently. Bahloo is also not 100% white, with a few black spots on his head and tail. The third of our Australian white whales is a juvenile called Migaloo Junior or MJ who was first seen as a calf in 2011. He or she seems to be completely white just like Migaloo and has been speculated (though not confirmed) to have been fathered by Migaloo himself.

As for today’s white whale, there seems to be a bit of disagreement as to whether it was Migaloo himself or MJ. Personally, I believe it was MJ we got to meet today, as it seemed to be a juvenile-sized whale, not a fully grown adult, and also the dorsal fin looks to me slightly different from that of Migaloo who we got lucky enough to spot 3 years ago.

Either way, it was an amazing view to see this beautiful bright white creature emerging from the dark blue water! And so lucky to spot one of only three white whales in a population of almost 20,000!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
Sunday, 2 August 2015
Breaching Lessons

We saw another two newborn baby humpback whales today! There seem to be quite a few of them coming through now, which is interesting. All born a little early, still on the way north towards the breeding grounds of the Great Barrier Reef.

Both of the calves we saw today were quite active, displaying lots of tail slaps and even a few breaches! We also got to see the mother of the second calf breaching herself, jumping high out of the water, making her little baby’s attempts look a bit uncoordinated but very cute! It was interesting to watch both mum and calf taking turns at breaching; it looked like she was actually teaching the young one how it’s done. Humpback whale calves do stay with their mothers for about two years. They learn important behaviours from her during that time, including the migratory route they travel each year, feeding and social behaviours, and also displays like breaches.

We certainly enjoyed watching this lesson in how to be a whale!

Eco Ranger Ina



Posted by Tangalooma Marine
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