Every year between April and November Humpback Whales make the 10,000 kilometre long journey from Antarctica to Australian waters to mate and give birth to their young calves. Thousands of travellers also make a journey of their own, flocking to the Australian east coast to witness this incredible natural phenomenon.
Of course, it was not that long ago that whales were close to the brink of extinction, but the population is recovering. It is estimated that some 40, 000 Humpback Whales including one very famous Albino whale named Migaloo, take the annual vacation to Australia. In recent years, Australian’s have become completely besotted with Humpback Whales. Popularity aside though, it is a mind-blowing experience the first time you see a Humpback Whale and a special moment that will always stay with you.
I joined the marine experts at Sea World Cruises for a magical whale watching encounter on the Gold Coast. Sometimes it is the luck of the draw when you head out whale watching but I was blessed with calm waters and some very friendly and active whales on the day.
Here is what you can expect from a Gold Coast whale watching cruise with Sea World Cruises.
How to get there:
Passengers can find the Sea World whale watching cruise terminal at the back of the Sea World car park on Sea World Drive, Main Beach. There is ample FREE car parking available.
By Public Transport: The 705 bus runs from Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise to Sea World roughly every 15 minutes.
By Ferry: A more scenic way to travel to Sea World is to jump on the ferry transfer from Appel Park (river end of Cavill Avenue). Sea World Cruises run a ferry once a day from Surfers Paradise at 9 am and leaves Sea World at 4.15pm.
- Scenic Gold Coast Seaway cruise with views of the Surfers Paradise skyline
- Informative commentary by Marine Naturalists
- Purpose-built whale watching vessel with grandstand seating and 6 viewing decks
- Spot some of the key characteristic Humpback Whale behaviours
- Listen to the whales sing
- 2.5 hours with the whales
What you’ll do:
Arrive and Check-in at Sea World Cruises Terminal
We meet and check in at the Sea World Cruise Terminal located in the car park outside of Sea World with our Experience Oz vouchers and prepare for departure.
While waiting for the cruise to depart we are treated to front row seats as a helicopter takes off right in front of us. After a safety briefing by the friendly crew of Sea World Cruises, we are then off exiting the Broadwater and into the Gold Coast Seaway.
The Gold Coast Skyline comes into view
Within 15 minutes of leaving the shore, we find ourselves in the sparkling ocean with a stunning backdrop of the Surfers Paradise skyline and golden beaches as a backdrop for our aquatic adventure.
It doesn’t take long before the captain announces that there is a whale nearby and we begin to slowly track behind it always careful to remain at a respectable distance.
There she blows
One of the first telltale signs that a Humpback Whale is nearby is the ‘whale blow’ which occurs when they surface to exhale misty air and vapour.
The first whales to be spotted are a mother and her gorgeous small calf. The whales are feeling a little shy and mum is protective of her calf so we follow them for a few minutes before backing away so they can continue their migration to North Queensland.
Sea World Cruises staff explain that the last thing they want to do is stress out the Humpback Whales especially when there are baby calves involved. The care by the skipper and crew is important to highlight because while they want customers to enjoy a once in a lifetime whale encounter, they also have the utmost respect the wildlife. I found this to be a key difference between Sea World Cruises and other commercial whale watch operators.
Pectoral Fin Slap
Further south along the Gold Coast Seaway we encounter a couple of friendly whales that gives us a wave. Using their pectoral fins, the Humpback Whales roll onto their side and lift their fins out of the water. It’s as if the whale is trying to say hello.
Tail Slap and Fluke Up Dives
Another whale and another common Humpback Whale behaviour spotted. We were blessed to have a lot of whale activity today. This time two adult whales were spotted and we enjoyed watching them swim north alongside our vessel. As the whales took a deep dive down to the ocean’s surface, we were treated to a beautiful sight of their tales, often referred to as a ‘Fluke Up Dive’.
The incredible moment we were all hoping to see occurred just as our whale watching cruise was coming to an end. Some very active whales were spotted in the distance so the skippers travelled further out to sea and there we waited. And it was worth the wait because out of nowhere two humpback whales side by side surfaced and made an almighty splash into the air and back into the water.
This behaviour is best known as a ‘breach’, and it is thought that Humpback Whales do this for a variety of reasons from showing off to their female counterparts to simply trying to get rid of parasites that have attached themselves to their blubber.
Again and again, the Humpback Whales put on a magical display of their power and might as they dive deep down below the surface and explode out of the sea.
This doesn’t happen on every whale watching cruise so were very lucky on the day to be able to witness this kind of whale behaviour multiple times.
Aboard Sea World Cruises, you’ll have three levels to enjoy 360 degree views with decks all around the boat. Multimedia presentations also provide valuable information and fast facts about the Humpback Whales as you make your way through the Gold Coast Seaway.
On the lower level, passengers can find a large spacious indoor area with seating and a bar for snacks and drink purchases. The lower level makes you feel closer to the action and is great place to retreat if you are feeling cold.
The large windows on either side of the vessel ensure that passengers both inside and outside of the vessel can enjoy comfortable viewing of the whales. The outdoor decks on the first level are located at the front and back of the vessel so views won’t be impeded by people standing in front of the windows.
Level 2 and three of the state of the art vessel boast outdoor grandstand seating at the front and rear of the vessels. And while this vessel has a capacity to take a large number of passengers on each cruise, Sea World Cruises cap the numbers. And this is a great advantage because once a whale is spotted you can freely move around and jostle for a better position- something you wouldn’t be able to do if the boat was full.
After approximately 2 hours out on the water, sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to the whales and head back to the Gold Coast Broadwater.
- 2.5 hour Whale Watch Cruise
- Commentary by Marine Naturalists
What to bring:
- Warm jacket
- Money for snacks or souvenir purchases
- Seasickness tablets if you need them
Sea World Cruises are the marine experts and you can expect to be blown away by an impressive array of knowledge during a whale watching cruise. For an enjoyable experience, I would recommend that you bring a warm jacket and sunglasses while out on the water. Budding photographers may want to bring the camera too but keep it mind they move quickly and are hard to capture. Try to sit back and enjoy the moment.
Finally, if you are susceptible to motion sickness come prepared with seasickness tablets and avoid sitting at the top of the boat where most of the movement is felt. Find a place at the back of the boat in the middle level where the vessel is steady.
Whale watching is an activity that all ages can enjoy and on my cruise there were locals, tourists, couples, retirees and young children. The ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were resounding right across the vessel. Everyone was impressed by the number of whales that were cruising by and how active they were. Sea World Cruises delivered a magical whale watching encounter and I would recommend this activity to everyone- not just those who are fascinated with marine life.