The arrival of June marks the beginning of winter in Australia but for wildlife enthusiasts, it also signals the start of the whale watching season. While it may be a little cold for us mere humans to jump in the water, it doesn’t bother the Humpback Whales that travel north to Australia and New Zealand every year leaving the frisky waters of Antarctica behind for a tropical holiday of their own. The warmer waters coincide with their breeding patterns and mothers will give birth in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay before for feeding their young in preparation for the long journey home.
Whale watching cruises from Cairns to Sydney and everywhere in between providing an unforgettable opportunity to encounter the majestic whales up close. If you are heading out on the open waters this year then you should keep a look out for these 6 common whale behaviours that will take your breath away every single time.
1. Whale Blow
The blow is probably the most important whale behaviour for you to look out for during your whale watch cruise because it is the first indicator that a whale is nearby and has just surfaced to breathe. The whale blow results in water being sprayed into the air up to 5 metres.
The most spectacular whale watching behaviour to witness is a whale breaching. A breach is when the Humpback Whale uses all their power to propel themselves out of the water and make an almighty splash back into the ocean. Whales are the largest marine mammals in the world and it is hard to comprehend their size until you witness a magical breach for yourself. Weighing up to 40 tonnes, it is quite a demonstration of aerobatic power that they are able to launch their entire body out of the water.
It is not known why Humpback Whales do this but marine biologists have speculated that it could be either a communication technique to signal their location to other whales or a way to remove barnacles and lice from their skin- a bit like scratching an itch for humans.
You’ll need to be quick with the camera to capture this one. Blink and you’ll miss it but you will definitely hear and see the splash afterwards.
It is estimated that around 30,000 Humpback Whales make the 5,000 kilometre long journey into Australian waters. And thousands more people flock to the coastlines to witness this natural phenomenon. Spyhopping occurs when the whales slightly lift their head out of the water to take a good look at their surroundings. While humans are curious about these mammals, the truth is the whales are just as curious about us.
4. Pectoral Fin Slapping
During a whale watching cruise, you may see the whales roll onto their side and use their Pectoral Fins to slap the water. It is thought that this is also another way to communicate with other whales and it looks a little bit like the whales are waving at you. I was once on a whale watching cruise and as we turned around and began to leave a Humpback Whale popped up out of the water and continually slapped their fin against the water as if to wave us goodbye. True story.
5. Tail Fluke up Dive
Whale watchers will see a tail fluke up dive when the Humpback Whale decides to take a deep dive underwater. As their body arches, the tail fluke is on full display and is the last part of their body to enter the water. Each fluke tail is unique just like human fingerprints and leaves a footprint on their water’s surface long after they dip below the surface.
6. Tail Slap
A tail slap occurs when Humpback Whales hold their bodies in the water vertically and slaps its tail against the water.
Visit our whale watching catalogue to discover where you can enjoy a personal encounter with Humpback Whales this season.
Where have you spotted Humpback Whales this year? How many of these whale behaviours have you been lucky enough to see on your whale watching cruise? Share with us your whale watching stories below. We’d love to hear.