Hello there, humpback!
A closer look at the whales - here until early December
The Geographe Bay whale watching season (September – early December) is in full swing and there are so many whales being spotted out on the water – over 70 in the last week, in fact! The local tour companies are telling us that they’ve just started to see the appearance of mothers and their calves, and, very excitingly, a number of extremely rare blue whales.
With all this activity going on, we are taking the opportunity to get to know the different whale species that migrate past our coastline.
The heroic mother humpbacks
We asked marine biologist Jacquie from Geographe Maritime Charters to tell us about humpback whales, and it turns out the mothers we’re seeing in Geographe Bay have unbelievable stamina. Jacquie says:
“We’ve been seeing whales in Geographe Bay since August, but the mothers and calves have only just started to appear, as it’s a slower journey for them. The calves need to build up enough blubber before they reach the Southern Ocean – which means putting on 50-60 kilos per day! This involves intense feeding, and the calves suckle for around 6-7 months in total. The feeding is very draining on the mother, especially considering that they don’t feed during migration; they rely on the strength they’ve built up during the summer months from feeding on krill.”
“There are predators to be aware of on their journey, too, including orca and large sharks, so the mothers need to remain on guard if their young are to survive.”
We wish we could speak whale so that we could tell the mothers ‘well done’, as they are doing a great job; the humpback whale population is currently growing at around 10% per year.
Photos below: humpbacks captured by Geographe Maritime Charters
Watch: Going ‘eye-to-eye’ with a humpback
Going out on a whale watching tour is the best way to see the whales up close, and if you don’t believe us, take a look at this wonderful clip captured with a GoPro by local tour company All Sea Charters. We bet you’ve never been ‘eye-to-eye’ with a humpback before!
The rare blue whales
Blue whales are still endangered and so are incredibly rare, but there are experts out there who know how to spot them. Mal at Naturaliste Charters is lucky enough to see around 50-60 blue whales per year whilst out on tour.
“They’re just starting to come through at this time of year, and as well as being rare, they’re actually difficult to spot when they are present. The blue whales are really big and fast and can hold their breath for a long time. They can travel 4-5 km – or for around one hour – before coming to the surface. They have different behaviour compared with the humpbacks. There was one tour where we were going by the Swan Wreck off Dunsborough and we couldn’t see anything, but suddenly a blue whale came up, so we think it must have been asleep!”
“When you do see them, it’s incredible – they make the humpbacks look like dolphins.”
“There’s a point on the coast where the whales come so close to the beach that we have photos where you can almost make out faces of people on the shore. It’s a path they’ve followed for hundreds of thousands of years.”
“We still don’t know much about the blue whales, but there is a lot of work being done to understand them better. We know that they migrate much further than the humpbacks, by around 1000 miles, as far as the equator. I have helped to track them for over six years now with extensive logs. Their arrival varies by one week or so every year. It doesn’t matter though, they’re here and that’s all that matters!”
Photo below: Blue whales off Dunsborough spotted on 9 October in 2015, by Naturaliste Charters