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Whale Watching

But do they get hungry? How is whale migration possible?

By Whale Watching

But do they get hungry? How is whale migration possible?

Whale Watching

The annual humpback whale migration is one of the most wonderful journeys of any animal in the world. If you have read our recent blog on the magic of migration, you would know why these charming creatures migrate from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef (and back again) – eating and breeding! They feast in the cold waters of Antarctica and have their babies in the warm bays of the Great Barrier Reef. But in the months in between, how do they survive? Keep reading to find out!

Do whales eat while migrating?

Adult humpback whales eat little to nothing during their time in the warmer waters of the north – their nursery lagoons. And they don’t find much food while migrating either. It was generally accepted that they did not feed at all whilst on migration, but some operators have reported what they believe could be feeding. It may well be that whales can’t resist a little snack along the way, and who can blame them! Their migration takes around six months and they travel over 10,000 kilometres. And the females give birth to calves of around 1,500kg! We would be hungry too.

Where do they get their energy from?

A humpback whale’s blubber provides the energy it needs when food is scarce. A thirty ton whale can burn up to eight tons of blubber during the months of migration! Without this energy source, whales would not be able to fast for their migration journeys like they do. They would be extremely hangry, to say the least!

How much to they eat when they return to Antarctica?

Unsurprisingly, humpback whales are large eaters when they get back to Antarctic water. The colder waters are rich with all their favourite foods, including small fish, krill and plankton. A humpback whale is able to feast on up to 1,360kg of food per day! They are a social species when it comes to feeding, often using a unique technique called “bubble netting.” This is a cooperative technique in which groups of humpbacks swim in circles and use air bubbles to herd fish. It is truly remarkable!

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Whale watching 101: A handy guide to spotting whales

By Whale Watching

Whale watching 101: A handy guide to spotting whales

Whale Watching

Spotting and identifying whales is extremely fun, especially when you know what to look for. Our crew at Whales in Paradise are experienced and expert whale spotters, and our tours have a 100% whale sighting guarantee, so don’t sweat it! But if you do want to take your whale watching experience to the next level, we recommend reading our handy whale spotting tips below.

1. Know your whales

Learning about common whale behaviour can be a tremendous help when it comes to both spotting and identifying whales on our tours. Look out for the telltale ‘blow.’ That is, the water sprayed into the air as the whale exhales at the surface. This is the easiest way to spot a whale. Sometimes, you can even identify the whale species by its blow. For example, southern right whales blow in a noticeable V shape, while sperm whales spray forward and to the left. Another way to spot them: if you see a big splash, then you probably just missed a breach! Luckily for us, whales, and in particular humpback whales, are famed for their magnificent acrobatic displays.

Humpback whale breach

2. Mind the weather

If you have the choice, head out on a clear and calm day. Whale blows and splashes are best spotted in calm seas with little to no white caps. On a day where there’s no white caps, almost any disturbance that’s not a boat is going to be a whale. But if you have a day booked and locked in, never fear! Our amazing crew will help you spot whales and ensure you have a day like no other.

Beautiful conditions on the Gold Coast

3. Pack good gear

Make sure you wear warm clothes and a jacket, comfortable shoes and bring your camera. Bonus points if you pack some binoculars! You’re going to spot more whales without the binoculars, but once you do spot them, the binoculars will help you get a closer look. Most importantly, pack some patience. As we are spotting animals in the wild, patience is key! But don’t worry, the anticipation is what makes whale watching so incredible.

Staying warm

4. Know that you have chosen a responsible tour provider!

By choosing Whales in Paradise as your whale watching tour operator, you are contributing to the protection of humpback whales! We are a responsible company and we take conservation, environmentalism and sustainability very seriously. The most helpful whale spotting tip is to protect them! This will ensure our whale populations continue to grow and flourish. More whales means more opportunities to watch them in awe!

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What to bring and wear on our whale watching tours

By Whale Watching

What to bring and wear on our whale watching tours

Hopefully you are here reading this blog because you have booked your Whales in Paradise whale watching tour. Yay for you! You are in for an epic day and we are beyond excited to have you on board. Read below to find out how you can make your whale watching experience a memorable one. We have created a helpful list outlining what you should bring and wear when you join us on the water. A little bit of preparation makes a big difference!

1. Rug up!

No matter the season, it is important to wear a windproof and waterproof jacket when you join us for whale watching. While the ocean breeze is invigorating, it can also be a bit chilly. In winter, it may be a good idea to wear a beanie, scarf and gloves too. Remember, you can always take them off, but you cannot wear what you don’t bring! Trust us – you’ll thank us later.

2. Protect your eyes

Sunglasses are a must when you join us on the water. That ocean glare can be intense on both sunny and overcast days. Ensure they have UV protection, and bonus points if they are polarised! Polarised sunnies will really help you spot those whales and calves that are sometimes a few hundred metres from the boat.

3. Don’t get sunburnt

Don’t be fooled by the chilly wind. You are still susceptible to sunburn on our tours. Make sure you slip, slop, slap with some SPF 30 or 50+, and wear a hat. But be careful – we have had hats fly overboard. Ensure yours has a drawstring, or hold on tight! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

4. Wear flat, comfortable shoes

Sorry fashionistas. Sensible shoes are a must on our whale watching tours. Your best bet is a flat pair of rubber-soled sneakers. We wouldn’t want you to slip over and hurt yourself! Feel free to spice up your outfit with other accessories.

5. Sea sickness tablets

Hopefully you won’t need these, but you know the saying, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A short trip to the pharmacy before you jump on board can save a lot of heartache (or should I say belly ache) later on. Most sea sickness tablets can be purchased over the counter, but make sure you read the packet as they can make some people feel a little drowsy.

6. Don’t forget your camera (or smartphone)

Last but certainly not least, your trusty camera! Ensure your camera, or other photo-taking device, is fully charged (or bring some spare batteries). Better yet, revamp your camera with a wrist or neck strap. This will help prevent a tragic camera-gone-overboard situation. It also means you will have your hands free to hold onto the rails. Safety first, remember!

Most importantly, bring your wonderful smile and bubbly positivity! While this is provided in abundance by our Captain and crew, bringing your own is bound to level up your day. We, at Whales in Paradise, look forward to seeing you very soon.

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From whaling to whale watching: A story of recovery

By Whale Watching No Comments

From whaling to whale watching: A story of recovery

Whale Watching

Whales in Paradise offers intimate encounters with one of the most remarkable creatures of the deep – whales. Today you can witness one of the animal kingdom’s most breathtaking spectacles from our very own Mahi Mahi vessel: 40,000 migrating humpback whales passing through the Gold Coast bay twice each year following an ancient route known as the Humpback Highway. But this hasn’t always been the case in our recent history due to the tragic workings of the whaling industry.

Australia’s First Nations Peoples did not hunt whales. Whaling in Australia began in the late 1700s using harpoons from small boats. The whales were towed behind the boats back to whaling stations on shore. Whale products were used for a number of things. The blubber was melted to be used as oil for lamp fuel, candles and lubricants and as a base for perfumes and soaps. Baleen (whalebone) was used for corsets, umbrellas and whips.

 

Whaling and exporting whale products become one of Australia’s first primary industries. Numerous coastal whaling stations were established around Australia in the late 1820s to 1830s. Devastatingly, whale species became so over-exploited they came very near to extinction. This over-exploitation eventually led to the demise of the whaling industry in Australia, and when whale numbers dropped in the 1900s, laws were finally passed to protect these magnificent marine mammals.

 

Since then, Australia has become a world leader in the protection and conservation of whales. Our waters are home to approximately 45 species of whales and dolphins and the protection of these species is a priority for our government. The Australian Whale Sanctuary, established in 1999, makes sure all whales are protected in our waters. Within the sanctuary, it is illegal to kill, injure or interfere with whales, with severe penalties applying to anyone who tries to do so.

 

Thanks to these vital and necessary laws, whale populations are flourishing. Luckily for us, Australia has one of the strongest recovering populations of whales off our coasts. Join us at Whales In Paradise to marvel at the dramatic aerial displays of humpback whales, or feel the warm and fuzzies watching mothers tenderly care for their calves. And remember to keep your camera ready because whales aren’t the only animals that curiously approach the vessel. Charming dolphins, big green sea turtles and migratory seabirds may try to steal the show.

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The magic of migration: From Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef (and back again)

By Whale Watching No Comments

The magic of migration: From Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef (and back again)

Whale Watching

Every year between April and November, Australia’s eastern coastline becomes the Humpback Highway. Our coastline comes alive with the astoundingly beautiful acrobatic displays of humpback whales. After a Summer of feeding on krill in Antarctic waters, these charming mammals migrate north to subtropical waters where they mate and give birth. During this annual migration journey, a journey of up to 10,000 kilometres, humpbacks put on a parade for all our eastern coastal towns. Book a whale watching tour with Whales In Paradise and sit back and enjoy the show!

The precise timing of the migration period can vary from year to year depending on the water temperature, sea ice, prey abundance, predation risk and the location of their feeding ground. The vast majority of humpbacks in Australian water migrate north from June to August, and back towards the Southern Ocean from September to November. Groups of young males typically lead the migration, while pregnant females and calves hold up the rear. Adult breeding whales make up the majority of migration in the middle stages.

 

At a maximum length of 16 metres, the humpback is not the largest of whales found in our waters, but it is arguably the most iconic. Covering 10,000 kilometres annually, humpbacks have the longest migratory pattern of any mammal in history. In the same way us humans will jump in our cars and drive considerable distances for our favourite take-away or restaurant, part of the reason whales embark on these huge journeys is for food. Being as enormous as they are, whales prioritise and spend a lot of time eating food. Their most treasured preference? Krill.

 

Krill are small prawn-like creatures that  grow up to about 4 centimetres long. Krill are found in oceans worldwide, but the smorgasbord of krill in Antarctic waters during summer is simply irresistible to Humpback whales, who can eat up to 1800 kilograms of krill each day. Pink and opaque, Antarctic krill numbers are estimated to range from 125 million tons to 6 billion tons. During summer, these krill congregate in swarms so dense and widespread they can be seen from space! So now we know why humpbacks love the Antarctic, but why do they travel all the way to warm Queensland waters during winter?

 

The answer? Motherly love. Humpbacks not only have big appetites, but they also have big hearts. The whales leave their krill-rich feeding grounds to migrate to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef to mate and give birth to their young ones. Baby humpback whales, called calves, don’t have enough body fat when they’re born to be able to survive in the cold Antarctic waters. But once Spring arrives in Australia, humpbacks and their calves begin the long trip home. Join us at Whales in Paradise to bear witness to this magical journey… And don’t forget your cameras!

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Day in the life of a whale: Exploring whale behaviours

By Whale Watching No Comments

Day in the life of a whale: Exploring whale behaviours

Whale Watching

Whales are known to be quite active in the water and display an array of amazing surfacing behaviours. Scientists are still debating on the reasons for some of these remarkable behaviours, but some theories have more evidence than others. Many scientists believe that certain behaviours help the whales determine their position in relation to land, or allow them to communicate with other whales. Fin slapping is thought to be a warning of danger nearby. And a theory as to why whales launch themselves out of the water and fall back with a giant splash – to rid themselves of skin parasites! But who knows, they may just be having some fun.

Breaching

For us humans, the most spectacular of all the whale behaviours is breaching. Breaching is a form of surfacing behaviour whereby most or all of the whale’s body leaves the water in a dramatic jump. Many species of whale do this, but some, such as the humpbacks we often see on Whales In Paradise, seem to breach more frequently. While no one knows why they do this for sure, it could be to communicate, to attract other whales, or to warn off other males.

Blowing

Like humans, whales are mammals. This means they have to breathe. However, as marine animals, whales are conscious breathers and have to actively decide when to breathe. This is unlike us, because we breathe automatically and effortlessly. Whales breathe through the blowholes located on the tops of their heads, and cannot breathe through their mouths. The friendly humpback whales we often see on our whale watch tours have two blowholes in which they exhale with huge force!

Lobtailing (tail slapping) and fin slapping

Lobtailing involves the whale lifting its tail flukes out of the water before slapping them onto the water’s surface, generating a loud sound. To do this, the whale usually hangs vertically in the water with just its tail above the surface. It then uses the muscles in its tail to slap the water. This may be to communicate with nearby whales or as some kind of defence mechanism. Likewise, whales may also slap their flippers hard against the water. This could be a sign of aggression in attempts to scare fish.

Spyhopping

When a whale wishes to see something above the water’s surface, it can lift its head and part of its chest vertically out of the water. Doing so means their eyes are just above the water line. This is called spyhopping. Get it – “spy” and “hopping” (haha!). Whales are known to be naturally curious creatures. Who knows… Maybe they like to watch us just as much as we like to watch them.

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Protecting whales to protect the planet: How whale poop helps feed the ocean

By Whale Watching No Comments

Protecting whales to protect the planet: How whale poop helps feed the ocean

Whale Watching

Whales have a reputation (and rightfully so) for being the largest and most intelligent creatures in the ocean. Now, marine biologists have discovered they also capture tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making them an important nature-based solution to reducing carbon emissions. Not only does nutrient-rich whale poop help reverse the effects of climate change – it’s an exceptional example that nothing in the natural world happens in isolation.

Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies during their long lives, some of which last 200 years. When they die and sink to the ocean floor, they take this carbon with them. A study published by the International Monetary Fund states that a tree during the same period will only contribute to 3 per cent of the carbon absorption of a whale. So when it comes to saving the planet, one whale is worth thousands of trees.

 

Not only this, but whale poop has a multiplier effect on phytoplankton. This is because whale poop contains iron and nitrogen, elements that phytoplankton need to grow. Fascinatingly, the concentration of iron in whale poop is about 10 million times higher than average seawater concentrations. So whale poop is effectively a fertiliser that increases phytoplankton growth. This is important because phytoplankton contributes to at least 50 per cent of all the oxygen in our atmosphere! AND they capture about 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is four Amazon forests’ worth!

 

So, the more whales, the more whale poop, the more phytoplankton, the more oxygen! Not only do we have whales to thank for maintaining a stable food chain and accumulating carbon in their bodies, we also have to thank them for consuming and digesting millions of phytoplankton per day, enhancing atmospheric carbon dioxide removal and creating a more productive ecosystem. Be sure to thank them next time you’re whale watching with Whales in Paradise.

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Other Five Fascinating Animals You Might See on a Whale Watching Trip

By Whale Watching

Other fascinating animals you might see on a whale watching trip

Whale Watching

Common Dolphins

The Coral Sea off the Gold Coast is habitat for a number of marine creatures that live here year round. One of those species is the local resident population of common dolphins. These dolphins do not migrate and spend their days resting, socializing and hunting in the bay. Often they can be found tucked in close to the beaches in the morning where they will be gathered together resting in shallow waters after a busy night of hunting and feeding. Dolphins rest in groups for safety, and will shut down one hemisphere of their brain, but still have one eye open so that they are alert to lurking predators like coastal sharks. Common dolphins are brightly coloured with a cream coloured cape and a gray beak and back. Their small size and fusiform body shape makes them very speedy. They will approach a boat to ride the bow wake and you will be delighted with a close up look at them!

Bottlenose Dolphins

Another year round resident is our local groups of bottlenose dolphins. They are larger and heftier then common dolphins and can range from a pale gray to a dark gray colouration. Like all dolphins they hunt in groups and use their teeth not to chew but rather to grasp their prey. All dolphins need to flip their fish around so that it is facing head first into their mouths! This is important as when they swallow the whole fish the very sharp and pointy scales on the fishes backs do not tear up and scratch their throats. We sometimes see bottlenose dolphins leaping high out of the water as they chase prey. We think the sounds of the dolphins big body splashing back into the water alerts other members of the pod that the hunt is on! It’s really exciting to see dolphins moving with speed after a school of fish! Sometimes we may encounter a very special group of dolphins – called a nursery pod – all the members of the group are mother dolphins and their small babies! The pregnant females group together and live separated from the males and when the babies are born they all stay together and raise their newborns without any help form the males. Some mums will go off to hunt while other females stay and baby sit all the young calves! The little ones are pretty cute – so keep a sharp lookout when they come to visit the boat!

Sea Turtles

The waters off the Gold Coast are also home to different types of sea turtles. We see them gliding through the water, or poking their snout out of the water to take a breath. Sea turtles have been on the planet for a very long time – longer than even crocodiles and alligators – and may have been present when the dinosaurs where roaming the land! If everything goes well for sea turtles they can live a very long life span – in some cased up to 100 years old! That is pretty amazing, considering they have to race from their nests on a sandy beach when they first hatch and face groups of seabirds trying to gobble them up! Sea turtles have the ability to sleep on the sea floor for up to five hours in one go – they have to really slow down their heartrate to do this. Sea turtles will eventually come to the surface to breathe and rest – that is when we get the chance to visit with them. Fun Fact: Sea turtles have about 50 bones in their bodies, including their very hard shell, which is actually a part of its skeleton.

Minke Whales

An early season occasional visitor is the southern Minke whale. They are sighted usually in May or in June and last season each time we saw them there was a small calf with the pod! Minke whales can be shy compared to humpbacks and usually do now show off, or breach about. They will pop up suddenly and then glide through the water and if you spot one – look out for the pointed dorsal fin on their back. Sightings are usually brief – but it’s still exciting to see these whales as they pass though the bay on their migration. Be sure to give them a wave! These minke whales were recently hunted in the Southern Ocean but as of 2019, they are no longer being targeted. We sure hope they will recover their numbers now, so we can see even more mums and bubs into the future. Fun Fact: Minke whales can put on a burst of speed (especially when hunting) and they can swim at 40 kilometres an hour – that is faster than many boats!

Southern Right Whales

Another occasional visitor is the southern right whale! They are making a strong comeback right now and they birth their calves near the Great Australian Bight. Perhaps the cows or mums are leading their young calves on a big swim about to get their tail flukes really strong. It seems strange to find them this far north up to East coast of Australia, but every year in recent times we will see mums and calves in the Gold Coast Bay. Southern rights have very short pectoral flippers and white horny growths on their heads called callosities. Fun fact: Each whale has a unique callosity pattern on their heads! This is how cetacean researchers can identify each whale!

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