It’s definitely humpback whale watching season in Port Douglas and Cairns! Robert Prettejohn was lucky enough to see a pod of humpback whales near Snapper Island and captured some wonderful photos above and below the water. Famous albino humpback Migaloo was also recently spotted on Great Barrier Reef waters near Port Douglas (check out the video footage of Migaloo surfacing at the end of this post).
Robert said that he spotted three humpback whales while out boating recently. He stopped the boat and drifted when an inquisitive humpback whale came in for a closer look. A massive male humpback was escorting a female and her calf – it was the marine mammal equivalent of the nuclear family on an outing! Mum was very attentive, nuzzling the calf while Dad kept a paternal eye out for his family. Like most babies the calf was playful and curious, peeking over Mum’s back to check out the strange human hovering motionless in the water.
At one point Mum seemed to be showing her calf how to breach, launching herself out of the water before the young calf copied her actions. As proud Mum looked on the calf launched itself out of the water too! It’s a rare treat and a beautiful and magical experience to see nature in her raw beauty.
It’s not unusual to see humpbacks in Great Barrier Reef waters at this time of the year. After gorging on krill, plankton and small fish in the Southern and Antarctic Oceans over summer they head north fuelled with a belly full of sustenance. As winter starts threading its icy blanket across southern waters whales are packing up their summer digs and heading to the tropics. Who can blame them!
Migrating in large pods northwards, it’s easy to imagine these marine mammals being the grey nomads of the sea. Just as the human variety up-stumps and head north in winter, so too do the whales. Humpback whales communicate with each other with songs that bounce around the ocean in a series of musical moans, cries and howls. It’s still not certain what they’re communicating to each other. Perhaps the males are singing to the females in a melodic mating call. By the time the humpback whales reach the Coral Sea they’re well and truly into holiday mode and enjoying the warmth of the tropics. Which is no different to grey nomads come to think of it! In the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef they are often seen breaching or launching themselves spectacularly out of the water.
Other whales that visit the Great Barrier Reef are dwarf minke whales. Scientists are still trying to figure out the where, why and how come of minke whale behaviour. They tend to make a brief appearance, which may only last a few weeks during June or July before swimming off to who knows where. Perhaps they come to say hello to the humpback brethren? We’ll probably never know.
We do know, however, that the only way to have any chance of an encounter with these majestic marine mammals is to board a boat tour out of Port Douglas and try your luck. Ask about booking a boat cruise while you’re visiting Thala. Enjoy more photos of this close-up encounter with humpback whales in the gallery below.
The famous albino humpback known as Migaloo was also recently spotted by passengers and crew onboard Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises.