Whale Watching in the City

Continuing from my last post on Sydney, this post is about other activities that you can do while in Sydney. If you like nature and animals, visiting Taronga Zoo is a popular choice with families. The other thing that you can do is to join a whale watching cruise. The main season to see whales are from late May to early November when humpback whales migrate north from the Antarctic towards warmer waters to breed. Their migration route takes them past Australia and in particular Sydney.

There are several cruise companies that operate these whale watching tours. For myself I decided to book with Captain Cook Cruises online for early bird discounts. Their whale watching cruises depart in the afternoon, so there is ample time to sight see around Circular Quay and the Opera House before boarding the boat.

Having been on whale watching tours elsewhere before, I was mentally prepared that I may not see anything, although Captain Cook Cruises assures an almost 100% chance of seeing whales as July to September is the peak of the whale migration season. Anyway, if you don’t get to see any whales you can return another day for a free cruise. So after a 30 minutes cruise from Circular Quay, past the Opera House and out of the mouth of Sydney Harbour, we were in the open ocean.

For those who have not been on a whale watching cruise, sea sickness can be a bane. Luckily for me I’m not affected by sea sickness but some people are. Vomit bags were provided and we were told to feel free to make use of them liberally, The ocean was not choppy, but the waves can be quite high and at times standing on the boat’s upper deck felt like being on a roller coaster.

All notions of sea sickness disappeared when the captain announced that whales were spotted. ‘Oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were heard as everyone rushed to the side of the boat that faced the whales. Whales are mammals and need to breathe air like humans. So they will come out of the water for air and breathe through the blowhole on top of their heads. They can be spotted by looking out for the spout of water when they breathe. It also helped that whales could be seen only after about 30 minutes of sailing through the waves, instead of more than an hour in some cases.

Whale 1
The first signs of whales are their spout. The water droplets from this whale’s spout caught the sunlight and formed a small rainbow.
Whale 3
2 humpback whales swimming together.
Whale 4
The tails of the whales can be seen when they dive back into the water after coming up for air.

Besides whales, dolphins can also be spotted and a pod of dolphins came to check out our boat while we stopped to look at whales.

Whale 2
Dolphins coming up right beside our boat.

The whale watching tours are around 3 hours long and before we headed back to Circular Quay, we stopped by the cliffs on the south of Sydney to look at some seals. These cliffs are on the coastal walk route between Bondi and Coogee Beach which I will cover in a later post.

Whale 7
Approaching the cliffs along the coast.
Whale 5
Getting as close as possible and trying to avoid getting smashed on the rocks.
Whale 6
Some seals lazing on the rocks. One of them was too busy scratching himself to notice us.

I was quite happy to be able to see whales and dolphins. Although, if you are really lucky you can see the whales displaying behavior like breaching (where the whale jumps out of the water) and tail slapping (where the whale lifts it’s tail out of the water and slaps it).

So if you are thinking of how to spend some of your time in Sydney, you can consider whale watching. Compared to some other whale watching tours that I’ve done, you don’t have to travel far and long to see whales here. They are just at the door step of Sydney Harbour.

Other whale watching tours that I’ve done include Iceland, Augusta in western Australia and Thailand.

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