After a cloudy day yesterday, the weather forecasters had predicted a perfect sunny day today, so in anticipation of that, we arose at 5:30 while it was still dark outside, packed our bags and headed off to our final buffet breakfast at the resort – being careful not to overdo it before the boat ride! We were told yesterday that our chosen whale watching vessel, the Pacific Explorer, departed at 8:30 each morning. Arriving at the docks at 8:00 we spotted our captain doing his last-minute checks on the boat. With time to kill, we admired the other vessels in the harbour before trying some fish spotting in the water below. The clear blue sky allowed for excellent viewing, and we spotted numerous groups of fish along with a large octopus – a beautiful elegant sight when gliding through the water! This was the first time either of us had seen these creatures and we took it as a good omen for our day of whale spotting.
Our guide for the day was the boat’s owner, who informed us that there were definitely whales passing the coast, and it was simply a matter of trying to spot the large spouts of water on the horizon as these magnificent creatures came up for air. After only about 20 minutes on the water, our eyes caught something in the distance. Having been told to yell out if we spotted something, even if we weren’t sure what it was, our guide confirmed it was indeed a genuine sighting – an incredible feeling, as they were still a long way in the distance and to spot them so well from so far out gave us an incredible sense of awe as to their size up close. With our boat being approximately 10 metres in length, these whales can grow up to 15 metres. A desperate 20-minute chase to catch up to them proved pointless as they were too far north and moving at good speed, so we turned south-east to look for another group that had been sighted by other operators.
A half hour later we were in luck, and spotted a pair also travelling at a good speed. We weren’t able to get particularly close due to the speed at which they were travelling, our boat just managed to maintain course with them, and they weren’t in the mood for tourists it seemed, only coming up for air and gliding along the surface for brief moments, but it was still an exhilarating feeling to watch and one we will never forget!
The owner’s Terrier dog, Mitch – 13-years-old and with better sea legs than us, and fully equipped with his own life-vest – was an enjoyable companion at first, going from passenger to passenger and using his sixth-sense to let us know if any whales were in the area, but his barking after a while really disturbed the otherwise serene calm and quiet out on the water.
Morning tea consisting of hot drinks, cake and biscuits was provided on the way back to shore, and while at $40 per head and only a small passenger list it was a nice personal experience, we were left hungry for a closer experience and will definitely keep an eye out in the coming weeks for operators in the Port Stephens area.