Getting Up Close With Migrating Whales
Celebrating a birthday when the people I love and care about aren’t close by for a hug is bloody tough.
Since March 2022, I’ve been moving from place to place along the East Coast of Australia house and pet sitting. I haven’t seen my adult children and grandies since June.
I’m aching for family — for dear friends.
In that low vibe, this birthday had the potential to spiral up — or down.
Do I linger in bed feeling sorry for myself or look for reasons to be grateful I’ve notched up another year?
Let It Be a Good Day
The thing is, I know, on a metaphysical level, the bad sh!t and the good sh!t in my life happen in accordance with the thoughts I allow to linger, and the feelings I foster.
So this birthday, I promised myself I’d focus on what brings me joy. Find reasons to laugh out loud!
I was ‘inspired’ to head one hundred kilometers down the highway to Port Macquarie on Australia’s New South Wales coast to jump on a Whale Watching tour I’d promised myself.
Wouldn’t you know, when I booked, they had one seat left!
I’ve been on more than one whale tour, and each experience tops the one before — every time. That prompted me to pull out my journal and scribble my intention to have a (safe) whale watching experience like no other!
On my drive down, I stopped at my favourite Cottage in tiny Moorland, a kilometre off the Pacific Highway, for a spot of Devonshire Tea. Their English Breakfast served in a delicate bone china teacup with a homemade scone just out of the oven and jam, and cream was seriously sensational.
Getting into Flow
The weather wasn’t great. A strong South Easterly was blowing, and the Tasman Sea looked ominous. But hell, the folks running the tour seemed to think it was safe to take a bunch of us out in it, so I prepared for a wily adventure.
I arrived at the tour late — everyone was waiting for me. Surprise, surprise, when folks climbed on board, no one wanted the two seats up front where all the action — and drenching — happens heading into the swell.
Now I’m still, at this point, feeling iffy about my day. I want to feel uplifted, but I’m struggling to get there.
Then, the Universe places me next to a very vocal and slightly unhinged woman called Vera, who’s hugging two cans of Coke, is wearing eye-catching mermaid slip-ons and tells me straight up she can’t swim and hates the water.
Before we even get past the breakwater, Vera’s screaming her lungs out!
Vera kept up with the “Oh My God, Oh My God” until someone at the back of our boat hollered for her to shut the hell up!
That made me giggle. I saw where this ‘experience’ was heading.
We turbo-charged out into the Tasman on a vessel called the “Wave Rider” — an 18-passenger 900-horsepower super boat purpose-built for this beautiful region and can reach top speeds over 100 kilometres per hour.
Our search for migrating humpback whales heading back towards the Southern Ocean brought us to a female and her calf breaching less than one hundred metres away.
Such a breathtaking sight! And our whales never tired of the acrobatic displays that went on for over half an hour.
We look across our boat, and there’s another airborne female showing her young calf how it’s done.
According to our tour’s on-board photographer — Jodie Lowe — the whales don’t always jump out this consistently, which offered her up numerous opportunities to take a series of unreal shots, some of which are featured in this story.
Because I’d only ever taken tours in the earlier part of the year when the humpback whales are heading North to warmer waters to mate or give birth, I’d never observed the calves interacting with their mother.
Watching females with their young in tow playing together in the swells was, for me, pure joy. I found myself clapping my hands like a child. My heart was bursting out of my chest.
Every moment out there, soaked to the bone, was adrenaline-fueled bliss.
Marine specialists have several theories as to why whales breach. Maybe what we witnessed today, the interaction between mother and her calf, was the female teaching her young ‘how’ to breach.
Some Humpback Whale Facts
- Humpback whale length: 12- 16 metres
- Humpback whale weight: up to 50 tonnes or 6 elephants!
- Average birth weight of humpback: 2 tonnes
- Birth length: 4–5 metres
- Humpback whale gestation period: 11 months
- Favoured birth temperature: 22–25 degrees
- Origin of Humpback Whale name: the name comes from their very long pectoral fins and knobby-looking head, which looks a bit like a hump!
- Easily tracked as identifiable by the unique markings on their tail fluke — so we can learn lots about them!
- Humpback whale travel speed: up to 8 km an hour
- Migration travel speed: humpback average only 1.6km an hour during the migration as they rest and socialise along the way
- Humpbacks sing songs that may be heard hundreds of kilometres away
- East Coast Australia’s most famous humpback whale is white and has an Aboriginal name, ‘Migaloo’ which means white fella.
The Gift of Vera
Looking back over my day, Vera was just the character I needed to let all the heavy stuff go. To be present and embrace this once-in-a-lifetime moment out on the ocean, sideling up to these majestic creatures.
I love being in or on the ocean, so I urged the gutsy Vera to throw her hands in the air like on a roller coaster — ’cause that’s what it felt like in the rolling swell — and let it all be fun.
We split our sides laughing when we hit a wave head-on, and we copped it right in our face.
A Birthday Wish Fulfilled
After a quick duck into Target to buy myself a change of clothes, I took a solitary walk along Rainbow Beach on my way home. One last communion with the ocean before my day was over.
To close out the day, I treated myself to a bottle of alcohol-free Bubbly and a block of Cadburys milk chocolate while snuggled up in bed watching a cheesy romance movie on my laptop.
Throughout the day, my Sisterhood had reached out to send their love. Friends and family on Facebook did the same.
Then, as I was devouring the last of my chocolate and tearing up in the closing scenes of my movie, my daughters called.
A sweet birthday to savour!
Love, light & laughter