Whale season is an exciting time for us here in the Whitsundays with Wings Whitsunday Adventures. It is around June that our giant ocean guests start to appear and delight us with their company for a few months.
The most common species of whale that we see in our region is the majestic Humpback.
Humpback whales are a large species of baleen whale which can reach around 16m on average. Being a baleen whale means these guys do not have regular teeth, they have hundreds of bristled plates called baleen lining the upper jaw which filter food such as krill from the water. These baleen plates are made from keratin which is the same material that makes up the hair on our heads and also the nails on our hands and feet.
These whales are found throughout all of the world oceans and are migratory animals who travel some of the longest distances of any mammal living on the land or in the sea. During the spring and summer months these gentle giants live in the frigid waters of the antarctic. Here they spend their days snacking on the delicious selection of food on offer, some of their favourite being the antarctic krill. Then in the autumn months they start their annual migration north to the warmer waters like those of our beautiful home in the Whitsundays. During their time here the whales mate and give birth to their young. Our calm and protected waters provide them with the perfect environment to care for and teach their newborns before they head back down south to Antarctica.
While they are here in our waters we love to go out and see them. Sometimes we are lucky enough to see them showing off their incredible swimming abilities and tricks. Breaching is probably the most awe inspiring of these abilities. These guys have a massive and powerful tail called a fluke which they use to propel themselves out of the water and then they come crashing down with an all mighty splash.
Apart from their physical performances humpback whales are also pretty spectacular singers.
These “songs” are thought to be how the whales communicate with each other. The sounds travel for quite long distances through the water and when we are snorkelling we have the ability to hear them sing to each other. Hearing a whale song is an experience like no other, they are both haunting and beautiful. If the whales are close enough you can even feel the vibrations of the sounds right through your body, which is a feeling you will never forget.
Humpback whales also have a bit of a sad history. They were almost hunted to extinction by humans because of the meat and other products they could provide. Luckily we realised that these magnificent giants were much more valuable alive and free and humpback whales have been protected since 1986. Their populations are now recovering and because of this we get to go out and enjoy these animals loving life in their natural habitat. However it is vitally important that human interactions with the whales are non disruptive to the whales and safe for both the whales and humans and here in Australia strict laws have been put into place to regulate these interactions and protect our gigantic friends.
If meeting humpbacks is on your bucket list a Winter Whitsundays holiday is for you and Wings Whitsunday Adventures will take you there.