The Big Arrival: Whale Watching Begins in Augusta

 

The Big Arrival

Whale season begins in Augusta.

Whale watching has officially begun at Augusta for the year, as captured beautifully by Naturaliste Charters and Tim Campbell Photo. Words by Carmen Jenner.

Western Australia’s South West has Australia’s longest whale-watching season – taking place at Flinders Bay, Augusta, from June to August, and Geographe Bay from September to early December. Many would claim the Margaret River region is the best location to observe humpbacks, southern right whales, rare blue whales, pygmy whales and their calves.

In fact, Geographe Bay is so favourable it becomes a whale nursery. As Chandra Salgado Kent from the collaborative research program SouWEST (Southwest Whale Ecology Study) notes; “The waters of Geographe Bay provide a relatively sheltered environment for southern right whales during their breeding and calving season, and for humpback whales and blue whales migrating south along the Australian coastline towards Antarctic feeding grounds. Sometimes mother-calf pairs are seen resting in Geographe Bay while the mother suckles her calf”.

The study is a long-term collaboration between Western Whale Research, Curtin University and Dunsborough Coast and Land Care, with support from Naturaliste Volunteer Sea Rescue and generous volunteers. Their aim is to collect information on the behaviour and population of the whales using Geographe Bay and how changes in the environment affect their numbers and behaviours.

There of course continue to be many threats to the whale population, including pollution, disease and climate change. As long as these impacts are managed, recovery to their previous numbers is possible. Whale watching itself has to obey strict rules to ensure it doesn’t add to the problem. It’s imperative to join an accredited tour company which is mindful of noise pollution, controls the number of daily tours and number of passengers while also abiding by the distance ruling.

There are several reputable and respectful tour operators offering the chance to encounter the whales up close on a whale watching cruise.

Curious by nature, whales will naturally approach vessels. And, as skipper of Legend Charters Dean Jensen says: “They’re so inquisitive they will often swim and play alongside the boat and even brush up against the boat, but they never charge. It’s not in their gentle nature. If they lose interest they will disappear but we never interfere with their patterns.”

It almost makes you wonder if they’re collecting information about us too. Naturaliste Charters owner Paul Cross has the longest established whale-watching company, which was founded in 1993. Taking visitors out with highly experienced marine science skippers on a purpose-built vessel, Paul recommends you keep watching the ocean.

“Take your eye off the camera and enjoy the experience. It’s all about the beautiful remote location you can’t get anywhere else,” he says.

Some skippers suggest taking sea-sickness medication, particularly in Flinders Bay in Augusta where the conditions can be rough – and for Bremer Bay which is a new market and about 100km east of Albany, where data collecting of killer and sperm whales is all part of the tour.

whales in Geo Bay

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

For those that prefer to keep their feet dry, we know the best on-shore spots from which to catch the ocean giants. Some of them include:

WINTER LOOKOUTS

Cape Leeuwin & Flinders Bay, Augusta. Numerous vantage points are along Leeuwin Road and enjoy fantastic views from the top of the
lighthouse.

Hamelin Bay 18km north of Augusta, south of the boat ramp, follow the boardwalk up to the limestone headland.

Numerous sightings were seen at Gnarabup last year. If you are lucky see them leaping whilst sipping a coffee at White Elephant or venture up the dunes behind Grunters for a higher viewpoint.

SPRINGTIME CHECKPOINTS

Cape Naturaliste Lookout Platform and Lighthouse 13km from Dunsborough, the view from both top of the lighthouse and its viewing deck promises whale sightings.

Shelley Cove, part of Bunker Bay 13km from Dunsborough, walk from the car park to the viewing platform above the limestone cliffs.

Canal Rocks Rotary Lookout 4km south of Yallingup take the 400m walk from the car park.

All operators offer food on board and have a 99% success rate for sightings. In the rare instance where there isn’t a sighting, all tours guarantee another tour for free.

It’s estimated each season attracts 35,000 whales, most of which are humpbacks which have been steadily increasing in population since the ban on whaling.

This post was last updated on 20 June 2018.

whale watching margaret river regionSee them up close

The only way to really gauge the size and agility of the gigantic whales is to encounter them up close on a whale watching cruise. You’ll be in awe as you witness a small part of their magnificent journey and their antics along the way!

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6 Comments

  • John cole says:

    Coming to WA in the next few months for a three week holiday, main reason is whale watching, what’s the best time and location to see humpbacks?
    Regards; John Cole, Northumberland, UK

    • digital says:

      Hello John,

      Yes it is certainly a fantastic time to see the Majestic Humpbacks as they cruise our stunning Coastline. As they are moving from Augusta to Dunsborough and Busselton over the next few weeks I suggest you email us on your arrival. We will then be able to tell you exactly where the Whales are are and what tours are on offer, as well as times and prices.

      If you wish to make a booking now please contact us at [email protected] or call us on +61 8 9780 5911 and one of our friendly consultants can assist you to make a booking. We are also on hand to assist you with accommodation, tour and attractions bookings and information about our beautiful region.

      Kind Regards

  • KY Chang says:

    Hi, my family and I will visit Perth from 2nd to 8th June, probably will stay in Margaret River and Perth CBD. Need your advise on the best location for whale watching

    • Amanda Carmichael Amanda Carmichael says:

      What a great time of year to be visiting! Whale watching boat tours operate from Augusta Harbour in June, July and August. It’s about a 30-minute drive south of Margaret River. Four operators offer twice daily tours, generally departing around 10am and 2pm.
      You can also spot them from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse – the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia. If you have any other questions you can get in touch with our Destination Specialists via [email protected] or call (08) 9780 5911

  • Wana says:

    Hi..we will arrive Perth 24July 5am..family of 5 kids 17, 15 & 8 yo.
    How and where do we go for best whale watching?

    • Amanda Carmichael Amanda Carmichael says:

      Hi Wana

      The best place for this time of year is from Augusta. The best way is to get up close and personal on a boat tour. Our Destination Specialists can help you book this in via [email protected] or call (08) 9780 591. I went on the weekend and we saw over 30 whales being very playful and putting on a show! It was seriously magical.

      Another great viewing point is from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.

      Cheers,

      Amanda

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