Season 1, Episode 21
Whale Watching – Tasman Venture
Whale watching in Hervey Bay is second to none! Find out more about these fascinating creatures as Benjamin Starr talks to Vicki from Tasman Venture about whale watching tours and what makes their tours so unique.
Read the transcript
Ben: Ok. we are driving our own adventure. We are down on the water at the moment chatting to Vicki from Tasman Venture. How are you?
Vicki: I’m very good, how are you?
Ben: Very very well, this is a lovely part of the world that you get to work in.
Vicki: It is, it’s beautiful, we have a huge marine park out there and we’re lucky enough to have the humpback whales migrate up the coast every year and it’s a picturesque spot we’ve got Fraser as a back drop, Fraser Island so it’s a beautiful area.
Ben: Describe what marine park means.
Vicki: Okay so we were one of the first towns to start whale watching basically in Hervey Bay so we’ve, um set the standards with whale watching guidelines and it is a marine park because of all the special things that make it. So, we’ve got you know a wide range of marine life we’ve got turtles, dugongs, whales in the whale season, lots of birds that migrate here as well so the flora and fauna is just amazing in the area. So, I guess yeah, we’ve been leading the way with that we’ve been a marine park for thirty years.
Ben: Now you are telling were telling me a few minutes ago that whales are seasonal, they’re on their way at the moment for a very long journey. Where are they leaving from and where are they going to?
Vicki: Yeah the humpback migration is a huge journey that they take on. They spend the summer in Antarctica and then they travel North for the warm subtropical waters over winter to mate and calf, basically its feeding in Antarctica and then mating and calving up here. The total distance that they swim round trip is about ten to twelve thousand kilometres so it’s a it’s a massive journey.
Ben: And how big are these whales?
Vicki: The humpbacks grow to a probably a maximum of fourteen/fifteen metres. When they are fully grown they weigh about forty tonne which is about as much as seven African elephants.
Ben: And they eat every day?
Vicki: While they are in Antarctica, at the moment on migration they are on a little bit of a starvation diet. They don’t eat terribly much on the migration, they can snack but the whole thing is getting back to Antarctica for the summer to feast on a little shrimp like creature known as krill.
Ben: Right, so it’s fascinating! Why do they go to Antarctica, what’s that all about?
Vicki: Solely to feed, so basically krill is found in cold water, we don’t have it up here it’s too warm, it’s eats tiny little microscopic things under the ice so there’s a lot of krill in Antarctica. So basically they travel south to munch on the krill over the summer period for anything, you know three, four, five, six months and then the calves are born up here because it’s nice and warm, they wouldn’t survive the cold Antarctic waters so they come up here to give birth to their young. In saying that the young ones still take on the migrations so they all journey up.
Ben: Unbelievable! Now are they very protective of their calves, is that what they call them?
Vicki: Definitely calves yep, and the females are really protective they are beautiful mothers. Humpbacks do have predators, sharks and killer whales do harass humpbacks. So of course a little calve is vulnerable to the predators. The mother, if a shark swims past or a killer whale shows up will go absolutely berserk. They use their body weight, they are baleen whales, so they don’t have teeth so they can’t, you know attack things as such, so they use their body weight and they will jump out of the water and thrash their bodies around till they scare away that predator.
Ben: Isn’t that fascinating! What about humans, how they react with humans?
Vicki: Here in Hervey Bay, we have some amazing close encounters. It is something unique to Hervey Bay that’s very very special and what happens when the whales come in to Hervey Bay they on average spend three to five days here maybe a week so it’s a stopover area. And that’s the point of difference between us and anywhere down the coast. You can whale watch just about anywhere these days but the whales are migrating, they’re on a mission, they’re on the move. Here in Hervey Bay they stop over and that’s something special that we get here and because they’re very very relaxed they are very inquisitive and they will swim over to the boats and they’ll check out people. I describe it that they’re swimming out there in the deep blue sea not seeing much at all and then all of a sudden they come into a really shallow bay and see a boat load of people waving at them and they just must think what we are, I don’t know what they think half the time but they’re really really inquisitive.
Ben: If you were to fall in, are they quiet, would they react or?
Vicki: They’re very graceful, they’re very gentle they’re very inquisitive around the boats, they roll their eye out of the water. So no, the only time we really see the humpbacks aggressive is the males in mating season with each other not with us of course. They do fight each other for the right to be with a females so they tear around the bay in lots of fighting pushing and shoving.
Ben: And how do they mate?
Vicki: It all happens pretty quickly when it happens but it is a contest before that, so the males will group up and compete for a single female so you’ll get big dominant ones in the middle of a fight, you’ll get younger ones on the edges and they’ll just tear around pushing, shoving, head butting and get really aggressive with each other and then eventually the strong one wins out in the end.
Ben: So they mate by contact?
Vicki: They definitely do.
Ben: Isn’t that fascinating!
Vicki: We don’t see it much but it happens. We see the lead up of course, then it all happens pretty quick.
Ben: And when a calf is born, is it big?
Vicki: A calf will be about three four meters in length when it’s a newborn and weigh about a tonne.
Ben: So when people are driving up the coast and they have got to see the whales, what’s the best time of the year to see whales?
Vicki: We basically start mid-July right through to the end of October. So I guess towards the end of July we’re really seeing big numbers in the bay. So all of August or all of September and most of October you can’t go wrong. There’s on any given day we can have over a hundred whales scattered throughout the bay.
Be: And what’s your advice to people that are doing it themselves on their boats like there is a whole respect level here huh?
Vicki: Definitely we’ve got lots of rules and regulations and that’s got to be abided by with private boats as well, just like us. So be very aware that the humpback here, we all are of course. So if you are visiting the bay just know that we have a lot of humpbacks out there in the season so you got to watch out for the blows and splashes they become very active so you know you’re watching out for that, (more whale noise and boat, splashing and laughing) and then of course a black shape on the water from a back. So yeah just take it easy out there it’s not just the whales we have got a lot of other marine life and dugongs out there that are very slow moving and turtle’s too so,we’ve always got to watch out for all the beautiful animals we got out in the bay.
Ben: Now what about the shipwreck?
Vicki: Oh The Maheno? Yeah that’s pretty famous it’s on the eastern beach of Fraser Island on the opposite side to where we whale watch, we watch up in the western side of the bay. So yeah if you do a tour that includes the bus trip over the other side you will see The Maheno, most of them stop there. Yeah no it’s a famous shipwreck that’s been washed up on the beach since, I can’t even remember the date actually.
Ben: It’s amazing isn’t and then they’ve sunk the other the navy ship that has become like a marine park as well.
Vicki: Yeah definitely the Tubruks out there in the middle of the bay so that’s starting to you get a lot of marine life on it now so ,there is some dive opportunities and companies that are taking people out there to dive the Tubruk so if you are into scuba diving that’s happening out there right now.
Ben: Now have you ever done diving?
Vicki: Oh I’m more of a snorkeler. I sort of haven’t had much of an opportunity to scuba dive. I’m going to get there one day but I have snorkelled in a lot of places out in the Pacific and all around Australia, so yeah that’s me.
Ben: Now tell me, we are coming up here. What’s the best way to book a tour with you guys and what options do people have?
Vicki: Yes so we actually have two boats our company has the Tasman Venture which run half day tours. So if you have only got a half day, perfect. It’s a fast boat though so it gets out there really quick and we do spend a lot of time with the whales. We leave at eight thirty in the morning and again at one thirty in the afternoon. So it suits a lot of people. We offer morning tea, afternoon tea all that’s included. We give out a DVD for people who come on board with some beautiful whale footage; we have underwater viewing rooms; we’ve got a platform at the back that drops down so when we get whales come into the boat you can get a really really close encounter, so that’s a great boat to go on. The other boat we have the Island Venture which offers a full day tour with Fraser Island included as well. So we stop at two different spots on the island, then we go out whale watching for a bit and something new that’s been happening here in Hervey Bay is swimming with whales and if the opportunities there, it’s not guaranteed of course, but if the whales are in the right mood, the weather’s right and everything comes together you can actually swim with the humpbacks.
Ben: How amazing! So they come here book the tour through your company? What’s the best web address to go to?
Vicki: Yeah so our website is www.tasmanadventure.com.au. All our tours are listed on the website of course we have Facebook pages as well. Tasman Venture Hervey Bay is our Facebook page, yes so you can jump on the website do it all online, you can ring the office, all the numbers there, free calls and all that. So we you know, offer free pickups around town as well so if you are staying in a motel in town we have buses that shuttle you down to the harbour as well. So it’s all really easy. That office is open 24/7 so.
Ben: Now what would it cost to go out for the day? And what if, what would you do if you wanted to do the big one where you get to swim with the whales?
Vicki: Yes so ok so we’ve got a couple different scenarios there. We’ve got the Island Venture is $195 per adult, $185 for concession, that includes the swimming, if it happens, we don’t charge extra for that. If you want to get more whale action you can package that up with the Tasman Venture as well for $250 so you are only paying $55 to jump on Tasman Venture the next day for a half day tour. If you just want to go on Tasman Venture for a half day tour we are $115 for adults $105 concession.
Ben: That’s great and how many people get on the boat, what’s the numbers?
Vicki: About twenty on Island Venture, we cap it at about eighty on Tasman Venture but Tasman Venture got walk around decks on either floor and we’ve got about six different viewing platforms so there’s is plenty of room. It is purposely built for whale watching so it holds the numbers really well and it’s just the perfect size actually, it’s really nice it’s a luxurious boat it was purposely built for whale watching.
Ben: Well Vicky thank you very much for your time talking about these wonderful tours Tasman Venture at Hervey Bay the web address again is?
Ben: Try saying that three times after a champagne. As we Drive Your Own Adventure.
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