About 20,000 whales from Antarctica escape the cold and migrate to Australia to warm up every year. They don’t just relax in the seas of Sydney, but they also breed, calve and feed. For us humans, their migration is a sight to behold as they swim, flip and roll. The anticipation that they’ll do something awesome is so high that it attracts 1.6 million visitors, and generates $300 million every year.
These whales are not the trained ones we get to see at amusement parks, though. They don’t put on a show on command. We need to adjust to them, which adds to that anticipation and excitement. If you happen to be in Sydney or you’re planning to visit, don’t miss whale watching at this time of the year. You may see them, you may not. That’s why it’s best to pick the best spots around the city to up your chances of a close encounter with this beautiful animal.
Up Close and Personal
It’s one of the best experiences of your life if you happen to get up close and personal with a whale! And that’s only possible if you’re on a boat–even better while spending the afternoon with some fine wine and barbecue. You can, of course, go on your own schedule if you have your own boat, but no worries if you don’t have that luxury. There are plenty of whale watching cruises in OZ, providing different experiences for all budget ranges.
The price of packages depends on many things—how long the whale watching will be, what time of the day, and what’s included in the tour. Follow these tips to get the most out of your tour:
- Book in the afternoon. You’ll notice that cheaper rates are in the morning, because that’s when sightings are fewer. Go in the afternoon if you want the higher probability of seeing whales.
- Book tours with guaranteed sightings. Different companies have different policies on this. Be sure to check how their guarantees work.
- Spend about four hours on the water. It will be a shame to book for an hour or two only to see nothing. The longer you are there, the more chances you get to see a beautiful show.
- Go in spring. It’s okay to go whale watching in winter, but it’s better to do it in spring. That’s when baby whales are born. You get to see the mother whales feeding their kids and teaching them how to swim, flip and roll.
- Choose a tour with on-board meals and drinks. You are always free to bring your own food and drinks. But isn’t it a lot better if you don’t have to worry about that?
- Make sure they have an expert on board. This is especially true if you’re bringing your kids along with you. Many companies will have an expert on board to explain the facts and figures about whales, making it a tour and a learning experience in one.
Whale watching up close may be a little pricier than your other options. But the price you’ll pay is definitely worth every cent.
Off the Water
Not really up for a cruise adventure? Well there are four other places suggested by the Office of Environment & Heritage for off-water whale watching:
1. Bare Island Fort. The Fort offers a scenic view, perfect not only for whale watching but also for picnics, bird watching and exploration. If you decide to go in the water, you can try other activities like scuba diving, snorkelling and swimming. It’s open every Sunday only, but it sure is worth the wait. Bare Island is in La Perouse and located about 16 km south east of the Sydney Central Business District, close to the northern headland of Botany Bay. You’ll have to walk 200 meters to get to this island.
2. Cape Solander. This place is made especially for whale watching and has always been regarded as one of the best spots. Spectators can see the whales swimming as close as 200 meters from the coast. There’s a viewing deck there, with information about the whales. If that’s not enough, you can go ask the friendly volunteers for more information.
3. Muru and Yena Tracks. An hour of walking will take you to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean—and there, you can get to see some whales doing their show. If you’re unlucky, you can have a detour along Banks-Solander Track, and off the track you’ll see a variety of plant species you don’t usually see downtown.
4. Cape Baily Coastal Walk. Want a more adventurous trail? Try this 2.5-hour walk to the cliff. Even if you don’t get to see the whales, you’ll get to see the spring wildflowers along with other diverse wildlife like sea eagles, kestrels and terns.
It’s now up to you to define what the best spot for whale watching is. If you like up close and personal, go hop on a boat. If you like extra adventures on top of watching whales, then by all means plan your short Sydney adventure. Just make sure to go there at the right season. Lastly, keep your expectation to the bare minimum, and just enjoy every little detail of your whale watching experience.
This is a guest post by Oz Whale Watching. All photos were provided by them.