Every year, from May to November, thousands of whales migrate north along the coast of New South Wales, Australia.
Kangaroos, koalas and wombats are typically the animals which draw tourists to Australia’s diverse wildlife scene, but whale spotting experiences are becoming increasingly popular.
New South Wales is now being labelled the world’s best area for whale spotting. According to Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer Sandra Chipchase, “NSW has plenty of great whale watching experiences including fast boat cruises, lookouts and vantage points from stunning coastal walks, whale festivals and Whale Dreaming tours.
“With whale numbers increasing, it’s not surprising that the State is often known as New South W(h)ales.”
Whales, and other sea creatures, have often been central to coastal aboriginal cultures and Whale Dreaming tours offer unique insights into their vital cultural importance. As Operator Dwayne Bannon-Harrison, descendant of the Yuin people, explains, “In our creation stories the whales are elders of the sea that once walked from the land into the ocean. Whale Dreaming Ceremonies sing the safe passage of the whale migration, and ensures the connection and respect continues on. We perform these ceremonies in May and October.”
New South Wales offers incredible and unique whale spotting experiences; by truly understanding the local respect for, and history of, these graceful giants, you will be able to better appreciate the sightings. Look out for the Whale Dreamers Festival, taking place on 2nd July, which began as a peaceful protest against whaling across the world.
According to whaledreamers.org.au, “Since then, as the whales go by our coast each winter, people come together to celebrate the whales, to hear about their wonder and their plight, to raise funds for conservation and research projects about whales, and to actively participate in their conservation; to be their voice in the world of man.”
Here are just three (of the many) ways to experience these majestic giants up close:
Wrrabalong National Park has many fantastic vantage points for whale watching as well as a rich aboriginal history. Since whales are so intertwined with aboriginal culture, the guided tours around the parks are a brilliant way to trace the history of these majestic giants and truly understand their importance to local people.
This National Park is particularly interesting since its southern section is part of the traditional Country of the Darkinjung people, whilst its northern section comprises part of Awabakal Country. This means that there are a number of protected cultural sites to explore throughout the park as you watch out for whales.
Make sure to visit Crackneck lookout, which is a prime location for whale watching. At this location, you can even help count whales in the ORRCA Annual Whale Census on Sunday 25 June.
The whale migration itself is a whopping 4000km and Jarvis Bay is the half way point, making it the ideal resting place for whale pods. In fact, new-born calves and their mothers are frequently spotted here as they learn and play in the sheltered bay waters.
There are also a variety of cruises and private tours available; look out for the Whale Eco Cruise which offers views of the spectacular coastal cliffs and provides a historical commentary of humpback whale migrations and Jarvis Bay itself.
Montague Island and Narooma are ideal places to spot rarer species of whale. Southern Right Whales, Fin Whales, Brydes Whales, Sei Whales and Blue Whales are increasingly spotted off the coast of Narooma. There have even been instances of albino humpbacks, known as Migaloo and Mini Migaloo, near both of these islands.
Despite a long history of whaling, which left whale populations dwindling, there have been a multitude of recovery efforts by local groups, the government as well as global movements. As a result, whale numbers are continuing to rise, making whale spotting experiences increasingly rewarding.
Visit New South W(h)ales for a truly unique whale watching experience, steeped in a complex history and rich in cultural value.
Pictures courtesy of www.jervisbaywild.com.au
Article written for The National Student: