Well whale watch season has kicked off with a bang, with whales spotted close up and breaching right down at Moon Point today (that’s just a few miles from the marina!). We are expecting about 14,000 whales to pass through the Bay this year with their new-born calves – so it is going to be an AWESOME season! You can’t see whales this close, in calm and protected waters, anywhere else in the world other than Tonga (and when are you going to get the opportunity to go there !!! lol)
So let me give you some tips for planning your Hervey Bay Whale Watching experience.
Half Day, ¾ Day, or Full Day Trips ??
Early and late in the season (before the 2nd week of August and after the 2nd week of October) there are fewer whales in the Bay, and it is possible that they may be further up the Bay (possibly up to 40 miles away at the top of Fraser Island), so it may take longer to find the whales. I prefer the ¾ day trips at these times, as it gives you more time with the whales when they are found.
That said, WhaleSong usually runs ¾ day trips until July 28th and after about October 23rd, whilst they run morning and afternoon half day trips in between (when it is like “whale soup” in the Bay there are so many whales !).
Half Day trips run in the morning and afternoon ( ~8am-12pm & 1pm-5pm ), and during the peak of the season you will get to see LOTS of whales and LOTS of breaching and close-to-boat action in 4 hours. If you want an awesome whale experience and either are not a big fan of being on the water all day, or want to fit some more exploring into your day, then a half day trip may be the perfect answer. Families with young children may find attention spans waning after half a day and 4 hrs might tick the boxes and keep everyone happy J
¾ Day trips on Freedom are perfect for the whale connoisseur! The bonus is you get a sleep-in, a day on the water in the middle of the day, and plenty of whale action (when the light is the best for photographs as well!). The ¾ day trips run for 6 hrs from 9:30am – 3:30pm and are roughly the same price as the half and full day trips. A great day on the water!
Full Day trips are available on Blue Dolphin, a sailing catamaran with low passenger numbers. With only 24 passengers max, Blue Dolphin is a smaller boat where you can get eyeball to eyeball with a whale from its waterline platform. An early start, the full day trip is 8 hrs (7:30am – 3:30pm), and if you love being on the water and close to whales and dolphins this is a truly great day out! Whilst Blue Dolphin is a sailing catamaran, this is a new and modern boat (last year), and can scoot along at close to 12kn if necessary, so it can get out to the whales just as quick as the big boats during the peak of the season.
If you don’t have a lot of time and want to squeeze in an awesome whale experience on the day of arrival in Hervey Bay, or the morning of your departure, it is worth thinking about “That’s Awesome”, which is a fast RIB that heads out for 3 hrs, 3 times a day .. 7am-10am, 10:30am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-5:30pm.
Morning or Afternoon ??
My advice is always morning! Lots of advantages for the morning trips ….
1/ The water is generally calmer in the mornings – depending on the weather, the breeze can often build during the day and it can sometimes get choppy in the afternoons. Given most people are booking well ahead, it is safer to book the morning trips.
2/ The morning trips usually have less people (and less children lol)! Everyone likes a sleep-in on holidays, and who can get the kids ready for a 7am pick-up?!
3/ You get back with plenty of time to explore (or have a nice long lunch) and pack some more great experiences into your day!
Which Boat ??
Half Day – WhaleSong is a brand new boat with low passenger numbers (50), and owners Jason and Virginia are one of the most experienced operators in the Bay. WhaleSong is the only half day boat where you get a full meal (buffet breakfast or lunch) included in your trip. WhaleSong is also wheelchair accessible, which means that if you are a little uncertain on your feet, there are plenty of handholds etc as well.
Spirit of Hervey Bay is the biggest boat in the fleet, with 5 large viewing decks, a maximum 130 passengers, and a waterline viewing platform. If you are not good on the water or get sea-sick, Spirit might be the perfect choice. Spirit also has the added attraction of underwater viewing windows, which are a big hit with the kids. (Complimentary DVD, morning or afternoon tea).
¾ Day – Freedom 3 (45 passengers) won the Best Whale Watch boat last year, and the trip includes morning tea, buffet lunch and afternoon tea. Keith’s profiteroles are certainly one of my favourite whale season snacks! Great boat and great crew.
Full Day – Blue Dolphin is a sailing cat (24 passengers) where you get a truly intimate experience with the whales. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are included, and Pete is a very experienced with a fantastic knowledge of marine mammals (retired dolphin trainer from Sea World). This trip is probably not the best choice for very young children (under 6), but is a great choice if you don’t like children under 6 lol! Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat .. beer and wine available for the true yachties!
Well the 2nd Week of August through to the end of September is the absolute best – males, females and calves and lots of numbers and action. But don’t be deterred if you can’t make it then, the experience is awesome through to the end of October!
Hope this helps your planning .. we have some great packages with all these boats, so check out our Whale Watching Packages page, and don’t forget to “like” our facebook page so you get all the latest updates about the whales and other stuff that is happening in Hervey Bay during the season.
by Rob Lennon Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay