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Saturday, June 29, 2013
The whales approached the boat!

Today we spent most of the cruise with a pod of three juveniles who were treating us to a great show! They were spending most of their time at the surface, rolling around, waving their big pectoral flippers and tail flukes above the water and slapping them onto the surface. They even showed off two breaches right next to the boat and approached our boat a few times to have a closer look at us.

The humpback whales are migrating every year from the cold waters around Antarctica where they spent the summer months feeding, to the warmer waters off Northern Queensland to breed and give birth to their calves. The whole journey is a round trip of 16,000 km and takes an individual whale about 2-3 months to complete. But not all whales migrate at the same time which is why we can see them passing by here continuously from May to November, heading North in May-August and back South in August-November. Generally the first ones to migrate are females with weaning calves (ie., calves that are a year or two old and about to leave their mothers). Next are the juveniles, followed by the mature males and females that are ready to mate (ie., not pregnant or with a young calf), and the last are the pregnant females on the way North or the females with newborn calves on the way South. So at the moment we’re still in the early stages of the migration and are seeing a lot of juveniles, like this pod of three we had today.

This staggered migration means that we actually get to watch different kinds of whale pods throughout the season displaying very different behaviours. For example at the moment we’re seeing many playful juveniles, but in a few weeks we’ll start to see the mature males and females ready to breed which means there will be a lot of excitement with males chasing females or competing amongst each other. Then towards the end of the season in September-October we see the mothers coming South with the young calves who are always very playful and cute!

So there’s always different things to see which keeps whale watching different and exciting throughout the season!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
Friday, June 28, 2013
A Spyhop so near...

We had a great day today with several different pods of seven humpback whales in total showing us lots of different behaviours. We first came across two pairs of whales that were travelling about 500m apart. The second of these pairs was very active with both whales spending a lot of time at the surface. We saw two tail lobs (where the whale lifts his tail stock out of the water and throws it across and back onto the water surface forcefully, making a big splash), two head lunges (where they bring their whole head vertically up out of the water before slamming it back down onto the surface) and then even a beautiful spyhop right near the boat.

Spyhopping is an inquisitive behaviour in which the whale brings its head straight up out of the water to have a good look around. They can see quite well above as well as below the water. The head of a humpback whale is also covered in golf ball sized lumps called tubercles. The exact function of these tubercles is not well understood but we know they have a single hair follicle in each tubercle and more than likely these are sensory hairs, kind of like the whiskers of a cat. This means they can probably use them to feel things like water temperature or water pressure. When spyhopping they can also probably feel wind speed or air temperature.

Humpback whales are very curious and inquisitive creatures and this whale was certainly having a good look at us!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
A black and white silhouette

A good day out today with plenty of whales spotted. We got to see a total of 14 whales throughout the cruise and there were plenty more on the horizon! We found a pod of two juveniles to begin and they were happily cruising along. We stayed with them for a while and got to see them fairly close up. The pair went down for a deep dive and we lost track of them so we decided to head back south to find some more whales.

Not long after, we were with another pair of juvenile whales and they also came up fairly close to the boat and we saw a few nice tail raises, which gave us a good opportunity to look at their large tail flukes. We got a message from the Cape Moreton whale watch team that there were a few pods coming up just past the Cape, so we headed back south to find them.

When we got to them we were delighted to see that we had a number of pods in all directions. There were four pods with over ten whales in total so the hardest part was choosing which pod to look at! One of the whales started pectoral flipper slapping and it was amazing to see the shear size of their pectoral flippers. These flippers can grow to five meters in length (one third of their body size) and are the largest limbs of any animal in the world!

While enjoying these whales we noticed a pod coming straight towards us. So we turned the engines off to not disturb them. We waited as they gradually came closer and closer. Suddenly one surfaced near the back end of the boat about twenty meters away and was still coming towards us. Everyone rushed to the back of the boat and we saw a black and white silhouette coming up from the depths. The whale then came up and surfaced right next to the boat, only about five meters away! It was amazing to be able to see it in so much detail and everyone was very happy. We went close to Cape Moreton to wrap it up and saw a small pod of bottlenose dolphins amongst the breaking surf.

What an awesome day, plenty of whales everywhere!


Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Chad
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Three breaching and tail lobbing

Tuesday, 25th June 2013 – At one stage we even had all three breaching and tail lobbing at the exact same moment!

Today was an amazing whale watching day, nice clear sky and plenty of action. We started with a single juvenile up around Flinder’s Reef, who was a little shy but we did see some nice pectoral flipper slapping. Afterwards we found a pod of three whales and followed them Northwards of Flinder’s Reef, they weren’t overly active but just as we turned around they all started breaching and gave us a good display. We were a bit too far North but came back towards Cape Moreton and found another pair. These two were quite close and one looked to be a very young juvenile that most likely just would have left its mother. They  were breaching and tail lobbing and quite playful. Great opportunity to see them close up. We also had a bottlenose dolphin come close to the boat too!

Then we found another pod of three whales near the Cape and they gave us a show to remember. At first we had to find them after a big dive but then they began an amazing show. Two of them were continually breaching with the other continually tail lobbing (throwing its tail up into the air). At one stage we even had all three breaching and tail lobbing at the exact same moment. Very synchronized! Sometimes it makes us wonder whether it was intentional or just coincidental that they were so synchronized.  

All together we got to see nine whales up close, with the last pod of whales making it something to remember. A great day of whale watching!


Eco Ranger Pat

Posted by Chad
Friday, June 21, 2013
The juvenile was very excited by all the commotion

A bit of a drizzly rainy day today but it was still very much worth going out to see the humpback whales!
Just off Cape Moreton we came across three pods of a total of 9 humpback whales! A pair of 2 was resting at the surface then taking long dives, another 3 were slowly travelling North. The other pod of 4 was quite active so we ended up spending the rest of the trip with this group. They consisted of 3 adults and one juvenile whale, probably a mother and calf from two or three years ago, with another 2 adults.

There was a lot of commotion and splashing around at the surface and for much of the time the 3 adults were swimming quite fast, chasing each other, with the younger one staying slightly further away. To me it looked like possibly 2 males chasing a female, jostling for position next to her, trying to impress her with head lunges and pushing each other out of the way. The juvenile was very excited by all the commotion, he kept his distance from the adults but was breaching several times and slapping his flippers on the surface, maybe trying to get his mother’s attention. When he was breaching we could see his bright pink belly. These humpback whales are white underneath, but they have a lot of blood vessels just under their skin and when they get excited, they get a lot of blood rushing through that area and that actually makes their belly look pink!

The whales seemed to be completely ignorant to our presence and it was fantastic to be able to watch their natural behaviour!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
Monday, June 17, 2013
First Whale Watch of the year - Amazing Start!

Wow, what an amazing start to our whale watch season!!! 

We were all buzzing with excitement as we were making our way north along the shore of Moreton Island towards its northern end.
It was a beautiful sunny day and before long one of our guests spotted the first humpback whales, and they were breaching!
As we made course towards them, we soon realized that there were several pods of whales all around us and all of them were being very active! We had a total of 4 pairs around us, all breaching, slapping their pectoral fins on the surface, tail lobbing (throwing their tails horizontally across the water) and generally giving us a fantastic show! We even spotted several double breaches, with both individuals from a pair breaching together at the same time! It was an absolutely stunning display!

After a while, the whales calmed down and continued on their journey North towards the breeding grounds, so we turned towards Cape Moreton to look for other marine wildlife. We didn’t get far though before coming across another pod of 4 juvenile humpbacks that were very inquisitive. They came up very close to our boat and then swam alongside us for quite a while. They seemed very playful, rolling around on the surface, waving their flippers or tails. One of them was very distinctly coloured with a lot of white colour up his sides and a beautiful stripy/spotty black and white pattern on his back.

After ten minutes or so they were joined by a small group of about 3 bottlenose dolphins that were zipping around in front of the whales, bowriding and surfing the waves created by their much larger cousins… so much fun to watch!!

So all in all, a total of 12 whales close by, many more off in the distance and 3 cheeky dolphins – what a perfect way to kick of our 2013 whale watch season!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
The First Sighting off Moreton!

I’ve just heard from Cara, one of our helicopter pilots, that they’ve spotted the first humpback whales making their way north along the east coast of Moreton Island!! They saw a pod of three whales, not far from the coast, just South of Cape Moreton. One was even seen splashing around at the surface, slapping his big flippers!

That’s fantastic news as we are just about to kick off the Tangalooma Whale Watch season in less than 2 weeks. We’ve been waiting anxiously for reports, as in previous years we’ve had the first whale sightings from mid-May onwards. So we’re very happy that they’ve finally arrived and can’t wait to get out and welcome the humpbacks back to South Queensland waters!

Last year we’ve had an amazing season with a grand total of 695 humpback whales spotted from our cruises, including 48 new calves and including Migaloo, the only confirmed albino humpback in the world! The whale population here is increasing at an estimated 10% every year so we’re looking forward to another great season with record numbers of whales migrating past our coastline and many more rare and wonderful moments we get to spend with them!

Eco Ranger Ina

Posted by Chad
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