Each year in late winter and spring, the waters off Eurobodalla’s coastline become a thoroughfare for migrating whales, providing some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world.
Eurobodalla’s whale watching season runs from September to November annually. During their southern migration whales are moving slowly, they are often with calves and seem to travel closer to the coastline. Scan the waters and you are likely to be rewarded with a sighting with whales often venturing in so close you can hear their breath as they exhale. Humpbacks, Southern Rights and Orcas can all be spotted from aboard a professional whale watching tour while there’s plenty of action for land-based whale watchers too.
The waters surrounding Montague Island are rich in krill and close to the edge of the continental shelf making them a popular feeding ground for whales, including female whales and their nursing calves. Most whale watching tours depart from Narooma and are an exhilarating experience – there’s nothing like being up close to the action. Dramatic tension develops when a whale dives, the minutes tick by and cameras are poised, waiting for that explosive moment when a whale breaks the surface in a spiralling breach.
The migrating whales are heading south from their northern breeding grounds to enjoy a summer of intense feeding in the Antarctic Ocean. Using the East Australian Current to conserve energy, the whales will travel over 5000 km to their summer feeding grounds at the edge of the Antarctic ice pack. In late winter the current flows towards the coast and the travelling pods are funnelled in close to Eurobodalla’s shores to provide some fantastic up-close and personal experiences.
This migration has been going on for millennia with coastal Aboriginal people witnessing their passing and perhaps occasionally feasting on a beached whale. With colonisation came the whaling industry, ever more efficient, and by the 1960’s operations along our east coast and in Antarctic waters decimated the whale population to the brink of extinction. Worldwide protection agreements in place for over 40 years have allowed whales to make a slow but steady population recovery, now returning in noticeably increasing numbers every year.
Of all the whale species, it is ultimately the famous yet little understood acrobatics of the humpbacks that lure whale watchers with the possibility that they may see a “breach” as the whale leaps from the water and returns with a mighty splash, or perhaps the awesome slapping of their giant fins and tail flukes on the water.
Later in the season, a special sight for whale watchers are the female whales nursing their calves, often cruising just beyond the breaker s. The pair of them travelling all that distance - one a giant of around 15m and possibly over 50 years old and the other a tiny 4m and just a few weeks old - is a symbol of hope and reassurance for the future.
Download a free copy of Whale Watching in Eurobodalla. Full of facts, great tips and ideas for getting the best view of these magnificent creatures. Also available at the Visitor Centres, or by phone 1800 802 528.