Humpback whale. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Great Sandy Marine Park
Life-changing whale encounters
Come face to face with a majestic humpback whale in the shallow, protected waters of Hervey Bay in the Great Sandy Marine Park, one of the only places in the world where humpback whales find sanctuary to ‘stay and play’. Be awed by the sheer size of these beautiful creatures as they emerge at the ocean’s surface and perhaps swim closer to you to get a better look! Feel a sense of peace and connection as you listen to their song and, if you are lucky, watch a mother swimming with her calf by her side. Professional guides will help you to recognise different whale behaviours and even individual whales by their unique markings. No matter your age, experiencing these gentle giants in their natural environment will create a memory that stays with you for a lifetime.
Location and getting there
The waters of Hervey Bay, Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Bay Inlet, from Bundaberg (north) to Double Island Point (south). Access is from coastal towns and boat ramps between Bundaberg and Rainbow Beach.
The modern fleet of whale watching vessels, run by tour operators in the Fraser Coast region, is among the best in the world, featuring underwater viewing areas and microphones to capture whale songs and sounds as well as wide viewing decks. The vessels are required to keep a safe respectful distance from the whales, but the whales are free to get as close to us as they wish—and they often do! You’ll be thrilled by the displays of flukes, fins and curious intelligent eyes watching the crowd. Keep watching and you’ll be certain to see some of these whale behaviours.
Surfacing and blowing: As the whale comes to the surface to breathe, it blows out a spout of air and water from nostrils (blowholes) on its head before taking a fresh breath.
Spy hopping: The whale brings its head out of the water vertically while ‘treading water’—perhaps to get a clear look at its audience!
Breaching: A full breach is an unforgettable moment, as the whale launches its full weight (up to 40 tonnes!) out of the ocean, into the air and down again with an enormous splash in a joyous acrobatic display.
Fin or tail slapping: The whale ‘slaps’ its long pectoral fins against the ocean’s surface in a ‘friendly wave’ or smashes its huge tail down onto the water, creating a great photo opportunity.