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22 May 2013
BBC One’s Frozen Planet has engendered great interest in the Polar Regions. While most travellers will never reach the Antarctic, they can come tolerably close by taking flights to Australia. Here, the coastal zones attract whales from the South Polar Region each year. In fact, so many whales migrate past Australia that whale watching is practically a national pastime. From the humpback whales in Hervey Bay to southern right whales off Victoria, the ocean “down under” teems with these fascinating marine mammals from May until November each year.
The Queensland Coast
Beginning each year in mid-June, pods of humpback whales begin to arrive at the Great Barrier Reef located off Australia’s eastern coast. This is the culmination of a 5000 kilometre journey that began near the South Pole. A typical year brings more than a thousand humpbacks to Australia where they congregate near the southern Whitsundays region. Later in the season, the whales begin their migration back south, pausing at Hervey Bay along the way.
Guided tour operators in Queensland offer tourists a variety of packages and ways to see these magnificent creatures. Sometimes they even navigate their boats so close that tourists almost feel that they could reach out and touch the passing whales.
New South Wales and Victoria
Located south of Queensland on the eastern coast, these regions are also excellent places to begin Australia tours focused on whale watching. Southern right whales usually give birth in the area close to the shore off Logan’s Beach. Afterwards, they remain in the vicinity for weeks as they nurse their young to prepare them for the long swim back to waters near Antarctica.
Another excellent location in Victoria is Lady Bay, where female adult whales often approach close enough to spray the watchers with water. Whale-spotting cruises here also take tourists out to Cape Nelson to see blue whales ending their feeding season before they travel back south.
The Western Coast
Both southern right whales and humpbacks can be spotted in Flinder’s Bay beginning each year in June. By September, however, the waters off Western Australia welcome several more species including pygmy whales and the blue whale, the largest animal species on earth.
The best season for whale watching off Western Australia is between July and October, because this is when both humpbacks and southern right whales can be seen mating in King George Sound. When not enjoying a cruise out to view them, tourists here can augment their holidays in Australia with a visit to the interactive whale museum in Albany, converted from an actual whaling station of days gone by.
Eager to maintain its whale population, Australia is currently planning to establish the largest marine park ever envisioned. The preserve will cover much of the Coral Sea, exceeding the area of Germany and France combined, so that whales – and the tourists who watch them – will continue to come to the “land down under” for generations to come.
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