It’s no secret we love living in Hervey Bay and lots of people love coming here for their holidays. What about the humpback whales?
What attracts them to Hervey Bay for several months between June and November?
Well, firstly we should clarify that individual whales don’t stay here for all that time. There are around 1200 whales that make their way along the coast from Antarctica to the tropics. Then they go back again. This is their annual migration. Many of them stop off in the calm waters around Hervey Bay for a few days to a couple of weeks, arriving in stages rather than en masse.
According to the Oceania Project, the warm sheltered waters of the bay provide the perfect haven for young whales, mother/calf pods, and pregnant females. They can rest and play before they make the long journey back to their Antarctic feeding grounds.
Learning Life Skills
During their time in the relatively safe waters of the bay, mothers with new calves can often be seen teaching their babies essential skills. These include breaching, lob-tailing, pectoral slaps, and head lunges. The spectacular moves look like a lot of fun to spectators, however, they are essential for survival. Especially if the whale needs them to shake off an attacking predator. This practice is particularly evident during September and October.
Socialising & Mating
Humpback whales are also very social creatures and their time in Hervey Bay’s waters is important for their interaction. Yearlings that have just separated from their mothers can be observed attaching themselves to new pods. Also, mothers that have completed the separation from their last season’s calf move into the next phase of courtship and mating. That’s why you might observe large pods of adults hanging out together.
Build That Body Fat
An essential for any young calf heading to Antarctica for the first time is to build up some body fat. This will give them energy for the long journey and give them some warmth when they get there. You may observe the mothers and calves resting or ‘logging’ on the surface in the calm waters. What they are doing is getting in some serious feeding to help build up the calf’s body fat. They need this as they generally can’t feed much while travelling in the open ocean.
A few quick facts:
- The 2500km journey is one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom
- While most whale species stay well away from land, humpbacks stay relatively close to shore during their migration.
- A mother whale produces up to 600L of extremely rich milk per day.
- Once they start the long journey to Antarctica, the calf will swim in the ‘slipstream’ of its mother to conserve energy.
- You may also observe the occasional curious minke whale in the bay as well.
Book Your Tour at Reception
While humpbacks have known about Hervey Bay for thousands of years, it has only been relatively recently that we humans have caught on to what amazing creatures they are. What a fantastic opportunity we have here to observe them in nature right on our doorstep.
When making your booking at Sanctuary Lakes Fauna Retreat, ask us about arranging a tour for you. We will ensure you travel with one of the reputable whale watching operators here in Hervey Bay. Going with an experienced operator is the best way to get up close to see our magnificent humpback whales.