When you live in Western Australia you become a bit blase with your wildlife terms.
It’s easy to trot off the tongue statements like: “Oh watch out for kangaroos when you’re driving,” or, “Let’s go and have a coffee at the waterfront and spot some dolphins,” or as we did this weekend, “Let’s go whale watching.”
In WA we think it’s pretty normal to be able to do these things (although as a ‘blow-in’ I am always a little bit Wowed by it all). Whereas, if I say something like this in a casual way on the phone to someone in England for instance, they think I’m just showing off.
The big WOW with whales is that from September to December, migrating humpbacks follow the Leeuwin current to the South West and Geographe Bay is their last “resting place” before they make the long journey south to Antarctica
Whale Watching near Busselton
I was very lucky to be invited by Legend Charters this weekend to go whale watching in Geographe Bay, departing form Port Geographe which is close to Busselton.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit excited, because the trip had been cancelled the previous weekend due to bad weather, and today Legend Charters owner, Dean Jensen, said although the conditions were a ‘bit lumpy out there’ it was great weather for whale sightings.
From my journal
… At 9.30am we ease our way out of Port Geographe and slowly motor past a lot of very fancy waterfront homes. Skipper, Dean gives us the safety talk about life jackets and life rafts, while two other crew members, Doug and Ricky are busy steering and handing out tea and coffee to us punters.
My excitement is mounting and I’m scouring the sea for whales. We head out into the ocean and everyone is peering into the distance hoping for a sighting.
Nothing. Maybe it’s going to be a bad day for whales after all.
Then Dean chirps up from the top deck: “4 Miles ahead on the horizon there are whales breaching, see them?”
No I can’t! I think he must have magnifier sunnies on. I’m amazed because I can’t see a thing, just the horizon and choppy grey swell .
“We’ll be there in 15 minutes,” says Dean, and it’s full speed ahead.
I’m impressed. I can’t even get to the supermarket in a designated time frame.
As we near them there is a collective, “Oh Wow”. Some of us clamber onto the top deck for a better view.
“We can’t take the boat closer than 100 metres, but if they come towards us, that’s ok,” says Dean. “They like the noise of the boat, so we don’t need to cut the engine.”
We inch as close as we can, and then I realise that the whales are coming closer to us. My heart beats a little faster.
“Look 11 o’clock! There’s a female and two calves – that’s a calf jumping – the female is about 45 feet – I think there might be 4 of them. No, there’s 6!” Dean says with enthusiasm.
“Sometimes they’re like teenage boys,” says Dean, “The bigger the group the naughtier they are. And they often jump when there’s a Westerly wind. We’re lucky today.”
After a while the whales stop breaching and Dean says that they’re probably watching us to see what we’re doing.
“We’ll go to the side for a bit,” he says, and soon enough the whales are active again.
A whale can weigh in around 45,000 kilos, Dean tells us and the boat weighs around 20,000 kilos. I watch another whale glide out of the water and it slaps its tail with a huge splash. I’m glad that we are on a reasonably big boat – lily livered that I am.
“That’s a tail slap, says Dean, it’s a form of aggression. Did you see that? That was a pectoral slap.”
I think it looks as if they’re waving to us.
It’s exciting and exhilarating being out here on the open sea in Geographe Bay with the sea breeze in my hair and whales just there, right there down below us.
They are inching closer to us again, rollling and splashing and waving. The boat rocks and rolls, it’s choppy out here. We are on the top deck and I try to juggle my phone and note pad while hanging on to the railing.
“Hold tight!” says Dean as we bob on another choppy section of sea.
“When it looks like they’re waving at you they’re doing a pectoral slap using their pectoral fin,” Doug tell me. “When they spin, they’re doing a pectoral roll. Breaching is when they leap out of the water and land on their back. They also do a head lunge and a roundout, but I’m getting technical,” he laughs. “Just watch them!”
The mother whale breaches and I can clearly sea the barnacles on her head.
They come close to the boat again as if they’re checking us out and finally after about 45 minutes of swimming along beside us they dive down and head for the deep.
Then it’s time for an Aussie morning tea consisting of tea, coffee and hand made Lamingtons. Nobody is feeling nauseous when they see the delicious Lamingtons.
But everyone is talking about whales.
Fun Whale Watching Facts
Humpback whales are the 5th largest species of whales.
They can grow to a length of 50 feet and weigh 50 tonnes.
Their lifespan is from 45 to 100 years.
“Whales communicate under water and they can hear each others song for around 80kms. They sing to attract females. Females don’t sing they just talk,” Doug tells me. “On the east coast they have a different song to the west coast, a different tune. One study on the east coast identified both tunes, and it’s believed that two of our male whales had migrated there in search of females – a long way to go for a date!”
- Legend Charters run Whale Watching tours from Augusta from June to August and from Busselton September to November.
- Small group sizes.
- Water level viewing deck.
- View Humpbacks or Southern Right whales.
- 99% sighting rate. Free return visit if you don’t see whales.
- Web: www.legendcharters.net.au
- Tel: 0419 908 742
After our whale viewing experience we walked along the jetty straight into a lovely restaurant called The Deck.
It’s set on a fabulous waterfront location with views of Port Geographe Marina. If you don’t go for lunch then go early for dinner to catch the sunset, and don’t forget the popular Sunday ‘Sesh often with live music.
Outside there are cloth shade sails and numerous outside seating arrangements all with watery views of the canals and boat moorings.
We walk into a modern, light, spacious lounge area with a central column fire feature, and a long bar which leads on to a well appointed dining area. In the centre of the nautically themed dining room is a centre piece of a replica model yacht.
As we’ve had such a stunning time whale watching we decide to celebrate and choose the Vasse Felix Silver Knight, a non vintage, extra brut, sparkling wine made in the ‘Methode Traditionelle‘ from chardonnay, pinot and meunier grapes. It’s named after the winner of the 1971 Melbourne Cup, so as we’re getting close to cup day we deem this bottle doubly appropriate!
From the menu I choose:-
Fresh fish of the day (which was salmon) with grilled tiger prawns, creamy mash, saffron beurre blanc, asparagus and side salad.
and Dave had …
200gr beef fillet with grilled Exmouth tiger prawns, ahnd cut chips, baby spinach, broccolini and red wine jus.
As you know this blog isn’t a foodie review blog, so all I’m going to say is, “By gosh the food was good, and what a great ending to a beautiful morning.”
- You’ll find The Deck at Port Geographe Marina.
- Open 7 days
- Tel: 08 9751 2960
Disclaimer: My Whale Watching experience and lunch at The Deck were complimentary. All opinions are my own.