Have a whale of a time in Your Margaret River Region


Have a whale of a time!

See the whales until early December

What do a pearl diver, two young tennis players and a home-schooling mother have in common?

An amazing boat called Steep Point and a whale watching business called Whale Watch Western Australia, that’s what!

A family affair

Whale Watch Western Australia really is a family affair, and it’s wonderful to watch the whole family work seamlessly together to give their guests a luxurious and exciting maritime experience.

Dad, Drew is the Captain. Mum, Leanne is in charge of hospitality and the girls Gemma and Jade pick up the slack of everything in between.

During our trip Gemma gave the commentary while Jade took photos and the whole family entertained and inspired us about whales, but hey, I’m sure there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes.

“We’ve been a family business for quite a while and we’re still speaking,” laughed Leanne when my mouth literally fell open watching them all work so professionally together.

“The girls were both home-schooled, and they’re both now professional tennis players. We’ve lived and worked up in the north west of Australia for many years, we’ve also run a penguin tour company in Melbourne, oh and lived in Thailand for three years where the girls were involved with tennis coaching at a 5-star resort.”

Phew. This family do not let the grass grow under their feet.

But it’s whale watching that rocks their boat these days, and they’re committed to providing the best experience possible.

On our excursion we were treated to a cruise par excellence in the VIP Captain’s Lounge where we were wined and dined in Royal fashion as we chatted to the Captain, who used to be a pearl diver (for around 30 years).

Listening to Drew’s watery tales of pearl farming, deep sea diving, encounters with jelly fish and of course whales was truly fascinating, and his stories underscore a great love of the sea and of course whales.

“I’ve spent a lot of time at the bottom of the ocean, and you get a great sense of how incredibly protective whales are,” Drew told us. “I hope I don’t chat on too much about them today, but they’re incredibly exciting and mysterious creatures. Their energy is amazing.”

After so long working under the water, Drew decided it was time to be on top of it, and recently decided to take on Steep Point, a luxurious 25 metre vessel, to operate Whale Watching tours in season out of both Busselton and Augusta. It’s a very stable platform for whale watching (and photography) and has 5 viewing decks. If you’re lucky you could experience the thrill of sighting Humpback, Southern Right and occasionally the rare Blue Whale, along with seals, dolphins and migratory birdlife in season.

Busselton, Whale Watch Western Australia, humpback whale
Busselton, Whale Watch Western Australia

And we’re off!

Busselton Jetty juts out into the sea to our left as we leave Geographe Marina. It’s an amazing sight, this thin ribbon of timber, the longest timber jetty in the southern hemisphere, but it’s not the jetty we’ve come to see today.

We’re looking for big dark shapes in the water, for splashes and breaches, and we’re keeping a close eye out for a ‘blow’ of steamy mist or watery smoke which Drew tells us can range from 3 – 4 metres high, and which can generally be sighted from a long distance.

Violin music and whale music is played on board to entice the whales. We spot an albatross, a pod of dolphins and a then a pod of 7 humpback whales with a really cheeky juvenile calf. Everyone holds their breath as they draw closer and Gemma gives a running commentary on their behaviour.

“Humpback whales have a small dorsal fin and arch their backs when diving. They complete a 13,000 km round-trip from Antarctica to Camden Harbour (Sound) in the Northern Kimberley where they go to calve,” Gemma told us, “and they only feed again when they get back to Antarctica.”

But this trip is not just about spotting The Big 5 of the ocean, it’s about being in the pristine waters of the South West coastline, one of the most majestic regions in the world, and it’s about learning about the marine life that lives in it.

What’s great about this working family is that they treat their tours not just as a business, but also as a way to constantly conduct research about whales.

“Research and protection is an important component of what we do. We like to educate our guests about marine life, share information and work alongside volunteers doing whale research, as well as keeping records and building a database about whale movement and activity,” Drew told me.

I really enjoyed the cruise which was so much more than just a trip out to sea to find whales, and I also enjoyed chatting to this family who clearly love the sea, have a deep interest in whale and marine life and are infectiously happy and passionate about what they do.

Tips and hints

Drew encouraged us to watch “Birthplace of the Giants” on YouTube for a fascinating insight into whales and their behaviour.

The Captain’s Lounge is plush, elegant and secluded. Expect VIP treatment along with priority boarding, tasting plates, tea, coffee, juices, local beer and wines. You are of course free to wander around the rest of the boat and the outside decks.

Whale Watch Western Australia has seasonal cruises that depart from Augusta (June to August) and from Busselton (September to November). They also offer sunset jazz and blues cruises on Geographe Bay.

For more whale-icious information you might also like to have a look at the Here’s Looking At You Humpback… and on my blog ZigaZag.

Geographe Bay, Busselton, Whale Watching Western Australia

Whale watching season continues until early December, so there’s still time to see the whales up close.

Tour options include:

Geographe Bay, Whale Watch Western Australia
Geographe Bay, Busselton, Humpback Whales
Steep Point caption, Whale Watching Western Australia
Steep Point, Geographe Bay
Geographe Bay, Whale Watch Western Australia

Whale watching 2015: Highlights so far

“A beautiful moment with this friendly humpback whale in Geographe Bay, Dunsborough 2015”

by Naturaliste Charters

“The day was perfect the wind was light and the sun was shining, we were surrounded by these beautiful inquisitive creatures, hanging as though suspended in the water watching us.”

by Geographe Maritime Charters

“Hi there, she said! They were definitely looking at us today.”

by Legend Charters

“First day in Dunsborough , with a lunch in Bunker bay.”

by All Sea Charters

Author Johanna Castro

A gypsy heart and a geologist husband brought travel writer Johanna Castro from Cape Town to Bunbury in 2008. Exploring the South West region soon became a passion which led on to writing for The West Australian, Fodor’s Travel Guide and various tourism agencies. In 2010 she began blogging and created ZigaZag (focusing on South West Australia) and Lifestyle Fifty. Jo’s contributed to over 40 publications and lived in 11 different countries but her gypsy heart is now content as she continues to discover and write about the fabulous produce, fine wines and beautiful scenery of WA. www.zigazag.com | lifestylefifty.com | Facebook (ZigaZag) | Facebook (Lifestyle Fifty)


  • budget jan says:

    The family at Whale Watch Western Australia sound amazing. So often you see one family tackle adventure after adventure. I believe that home schooling is a great basis for living an unconventional or adventurous life. How beautiful would it be to watch the whales on a regular basis and know that your efforts will help in their preservation. Your photos are spectacular. I love whales 🙂

  • Jo says:

    Hi Jan, thanks for popping by. Yes, I agree home schooling can be a great basis for living an unconventional life (done right), and this family certainly seem to be doing just that especially in their common bond to help people understand more about marine life. I have to ‘fess up, that some of the photos in this post were provided by tour operators, so can’t take credit for all of them. But thank you all the same.

  • Marcia says:

    How beautiful! My only time seeing whales was way out at sea through the lens of my little point and shoot camera.

  • Jo says:

    Glad you enjoyed your ‘cyber’ visit to this lovely region Marcia – and hope that one day you can visit and go out on one of the Whale tours too 🙂

  • There is something soooooo magical about seeing nature in the wild – And to see whales as they pass along the coast on their migration truly is a spectacle –
    Nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling of looking eye to eye with a whale 🙂

    • Jo says:

      Ooh love the thought of that Linda – ‘nothing can prepare you for the feeling of looking eye to eye with a whale’ – that’s so true. They are magical creatures.

  • Carol Colborn says:

    I have never gone whale watching…felt they were too expensive. But an experience with a family like this may just be worth it. We will be in Australia most of 2017 so I am sure we will get a chance! Thanks for the introduction.

    • Jo says:

      Hi Carol, so great to have introduced you to whale watching in advance of your visit to Australia. In the general scheme of things, they are not expensive tours, so I’d say, ‘Just Do it!”

  • What an incredible family who share their enthusiasm for the whales and sea. They must have been fascinating to talk to and hear some of their stories. And the whales- okay, I must confess I’m quite jealous as I look at your beautiful pictures of your adventure!

  • Donna Janke says:

    Whale Watch Western Australia sounds like a great excursion. It’s nice to see a family working together so well and to see tour guides be so knowledgeable and care so much about the whales. Your photos are fantastic.

    • Jo says:

      Thanks Donna 🙂 Yes, I also love the fact that as a family and tour operators that they are so keen to preserve and protect the whales too.

  • noel says:

    Amazing shots Jo, had no idea they also go down there. In Hawaii, they come all the way from the Artic to have offspring and it’s busy all over Hawaii.

    • Jo says:

      Thank you Noel! Although I have to admit that some of those shots were taken by the (very talented) tour operators. Yes, it’ss interesting to think that these massive creatures swim so far to breed.

  • Jo says:

    Hi Anita, yes it was so interesting chatting to them and hearing their tales of life – a life lived so un- 9 to 5 😉 Yes, I was very lucky to go on such an awesome adventure that day.

  • This is so great! To me, this is an experience that reminds in the mind for a lifetime. I went whale watching once and we saw several whales reaching to the surface to breath. I will like to go on another excursion to see if I can take a look at the species who expose more of their bodies (tails and faces).

    • Jo says:

      Hi Ruth, maybe you can make it to Geographe Bay one day – I think you would be in for a whale watching treat 😉

  • Wow, great pictures of the whales! It is amazing how close you got. Definitely highlights.

    • Jo says:

      We were very fortunate to get close, Gypsy Nesters. Although tour operators don’t drive the boats close, sometimes the whales swim up to them in Geographe Bay.

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