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.
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.
Whale watching season continues until early December, so there’s still time to see the whales up close.
Tour options include:
Whale watching 2015: Highlights so far
“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.”