Humpback Highway

From June to November, the eastern coast of Australia becomes a high-traffic highway for migrating humpback whales.

Sea World is well-known for its amazing dolphin shows but to the left of the main entrance is a small building that marks the starting point of an amazing ocean adventure which brings travellers face-to-face with some of the world’s largest mammals – the Humpback whale.

Taking visitors on this adventure is the Spirit of Migaloo II – Australia’s premier whale watching boat, which has been specially designed for whale watching.

Excited Australians and international travellers alike travel 10km off the Gold Coast from June to November to watch humpback whales frolic in their natural habitat. During these months the whales travel a 10,000km round trip from Antarctica to the warmer waters off northern Queensland and back, often with a newborn in tow.

Sea World Spirit of Migaloo boat

What do you need to know beforehand?

Planning your whale watching experience is essential as rough seas, wind speed and weather might mean you’ll be drier in the water than out. Visit AccuWeather to choose the best day to maximise whale sightings.

Sea sickness is also a concern and can bring down even the strongest stomach. Ginger tablets and Travacalm are available on the boat but are best taken about half an hour before boarding to keep your breakfast where you left it.

Once on board

Crew member Ebony shared some top tips for the VIP Captain’s Club members to ensure they have a front seat view of any whale action:

  • The boat will always travel beside whales on the side with no sun so running to the front isn’t going to give you much of a view – ten to two is your best bet.
  • Keep an eye on the captain because he’ll be closest to the action.
  • To find whales, the crew will look for spouts of water in the distance. The rule of thumb is if you count to three and the spout still there, it’s a boat not a whale.
  • Keep a hold of the rail, especially when the boat is shifting sideways and creating rolling motions.

Now that you’re whale watching ready, Captain Wayne climbed aboard to take you out into the Pacific Ocean where, hopefully, the whales are waiting to entertain. Wayne loves whales, boats and a good chat, so don’t be shy.

In 2018, a record 30,000 whales passed the Gold Coast on their way north so there’s no shortage of whales in the area. Strict regulations mean that boats are no longer allowed to stop within 100 metres of whales but, if you’re lucky, the curious creatures will happily swim up next to parked ships to check them out.

Humpback whale next to boat

The male whales are also very eager to impress the females so it’s common to see a few showing off with peduncle throws, breaching and tail slapping. This makes for a great show above water and really gives you an idea of how massive they are.

Throughout the two and a half hour experience, Captain Wayne keeps passengers entertained with whale facts, stories and an impressive array of dad jokes.

It's an experience well worth your time with the crew all agreeing that it helps to bring awareness to the issues whales face and brings people closer to these gentle giants. 

Captain Wayne’s Humpback whale fast facts

  • Adult female whales are bigger than males at 15-16m and 13-14m respectively.
  • Males can usually be identified by excessive scarring.
  • Newborn calves weigh around 1 tonne at birth and need to be lifted to the surface by their mothers as they’re unable to swim on their own.
  • Whales can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes but often only spend about 5-10 minutes underwater at a time.
  • Humpback whales can live for up 50 years and will travel the 5000km migration path twice a year.

Want to experience it for yourself? RACQ members receive discounted tickets for Sea World whale watching cruises here.

Go in the draw for your chance to win a Sea World whale watching family adventure here. Competition ends 22 August, 2019.