Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Whales Make a Splash Along WA's Humpback Highway

Humpback whales are currently making an almighty splash in waters from Esperance in the South East to Broome in the North West of WA.

WA has one of the longest whale-watching seasons in the world, running from June to early December each year and covering the length of the State’s coastline.

Humpback whales first make an appearance in the south of the State in winter during their annual migration north to warmer waters and are then visible on the South West coast again in spring as they head back to Antarctica.

Australia’s South West Chief Executive Officer Sascha Papalia said humpack whales had arrived earlier than usual this year and local whale watching operators were delighted with the numbers they were seeing off the coast of Augusta and Albany in the South West.

“Hundreds of whales visit South West waters each year to play, feed, breed and travel close to the coast during the winter months,” Ms Papalia said.

“Humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all the whale species; their spectacular shows of breaching, spy hopping and tail slapping provide whale spotters with an extraordinary experience they are unlikely to forget.”

Often during July more than 200 whales can be seen at any one time in Flinders Bay, Augusta, offering an amazing spectacle for whale spotters on the mainland and passengers aboard whale watching charters in the area.

The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse offers an excellent vantage point for land based whale watching during winter. Whale watchers can climb to the top of mainland Australia’s tallest lighthouse or look out to sea where two oceans meet through the decking binoculars.

With uninterrupted views across King George Sound, Albany’s Whale World is another great place to spot whales and to learn about the interesting history of this former whaling station.

Victoria Casey from Three Islands Whale Shark Dive said plenty of humpback whales had been sighted near Exmouth on the mid north coast during their annual migration north along Ningaloo Reef’s humpback highway on their way to the Kimberley.

“Humpback whale numbers are increasing daily and our passengers also saw a huge pod of spinner dolphins recently,” Ms Casey said.

Minke whales and orcas have also been spotted off the coral coast in the last few weeks.

Australia’s North West CEO Glen Chidlow said the largest population of humpback whales in the world migrated along the pristine waters of the Kimberley coast annually, using the area as a breeding and calving ground between end of June and mid October each year.

“You can see whales from the shore in many places along the Kimberley coast or join a whale watching tour to see them up close,” Mr Chidlow said.

“Whale watching cruises operating from Broome allow people to see the amazing sight of whales and their newborn calves in the calm, safe waters of Cable Beach.”

A rare white-tailed humpback whale was spotted at Cable Beach this week.

Whale watching tours operate out of Perth and Geographe Bay from September to mid December as the whales stop for a rest on their way back to Antarctica.

The seaside resort town of Dunsborough in Geographe Bay is considered one of the best places to join a whale watching charter because the whales come in close to shore. The north facing bay also offers calm conditions for a comfortable aquatic outing.

The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse near Dunsborough is a great viewing spot for whale watching during spring, as are nearby walking trails through the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.

The largest animal in existence, the rare blue whales occasionally make an appearance in Albany from May to June and in Dunsborough during November and December. Southern right whales (the second largest mammal in the world) are most commonly sighted from May to June in Albany and in Augusta from August to October.

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