Tips For Planning Your Whale Watching Experience

Tips for Whale Watching

Australia is home to 45 species of cetacean including 30 whale species, 14 dolphin species and 1 porpoise. It creates the perfect opportunity to experience some of the best whale watching in the world and meet many of the unique and elusive species not observed easily elsewhere. Our family enjoy exploring the waters of Western Australia and Queensland to locate these cetacean species and provide our guests the opportunity to meet them in the wild. Depending on what time of year you would like to go whale watching or what species you would like to meet will determine the best Whale Watch tour for you.

January to April – Bremer Bay Orca Experience

The warmth of summer combined with the cold nutrient rich waters pushing up to the Australian coastline from Antarctica brings the oceans of Australia alive during the summer months. One of the very best locations to Whale Watch in Australia during January to April is in Bremer Bay, Western Australia. In the waters offshore of Bremer Bay and only 19 nautical mile from the Bremer Bay Boat Harbour lies the hunting grounds of the oceans apex predator, the Orca (Killer Whale).

The southern Western Australian coastline is home to one of the largest known populations of Orca in the world with approximately 300 Orca living and hunting in these waters. The reason why they live and gather here is due to the plentiful food source that can be found year round, but especially from January to April each year. Squid, beaked whales, pelagic fish species and late or early migratory baleen whales move through these offshore waters enabling the Orca families a stable and reliable feeding ground.

It is not only Orca who gather in these waters but many of the 45 cetacean species known to live in Australian waters can be found here during our Bremer Bay Orca season or winter months depending on the species. A list of the species is below with those most regularly sighted being Sperm Whales, Pilot Whales, Beaked Whales and many Dolphin species during the summer months. The baleen whales including Humpbacks, Blue Whales and Minke Whales tend to migrate through the area during winter and spring while the Southern Right Whales will use these waters close to the shoreline as their nursery grounds during the winter and spring.

  • Sperm Whale
  • Pilot Whales
  • False Killer Whale
  • Dwarf Sperm Whale
  • Gray’s Beaked Whale
  • Cuvier’s Beaked Whale
  • Strap-toothed Beaked Whale
  • Southern Bottlenose Whale
  • Humpback Whale
  • Southern Right Whale
  • Blue Whale
  • Minke Whale
  • Striped Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Bottlenose Dolphin

April to May – Perth Canyon Blue Whale Safari

The change of season observes the Orca changing their hunting patterns as they begin moving greater distances in search of food. During the autumn months we see many species of cetacean begin moving north towards warmer waters for the approaching winter months. The main species to undertake this migration are the baleen whales, the filter feeders. Humpbacks, Blue Whales, Southern Right Whales, Minke Whales and Fin Whales begin to migrate northbound towards the tropics. Located offshore from the city of Perth, Western Australia lies the Perth Canyon which is the largest deep sea canyon in the southern hemisphere. April to May every year is the perfect opportunity to meet the largest creature to have ever lived on our plant, the Blue Whale.

Gathering in large numbers in the waters behind Rottnest Island the Blue Whales spend a few weeks here to feed on an abundance of krill found at this time of the season. One of our busiest days out in the Perth Canyon was a very special occasion as we sighted 22 different Blue Whales feasting on krill and it is days like these you see the importance of this feeding ground to the endangered Blue Whale population. It is one of the few known feeding grounds of Blue Whales in the world and the only location in Australia you can join a dedicated Blue Whale tour with our family team at Whale Watch Western Australia. The season is a shorter season as the Blue Whale population is still recovering and with only approximately one to three thousand individuals estimated to visit the canyon joining a tour at the right time of the year is vital.

Just like the Bremer Canyons there are plenty of other species of cetacean that visit the Perth Canyon to feed and also migrate through the region. Over the years there have been sightings of the below species with the most common species observed during the Blue Whale season listed first.

  • Striped Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Spinner Dolphins
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Indo-Pacific Dolphin
  • Risso Dolphins
  • Pilot Whales
  • Sperm Whales
  • Minke Whales
  • Humpback Whales

May to December – Augusta / Perth / Gold Coast

Australia is home to the largest population of Humpback Whales on the planet with Western Australia welcoming over 45,000 individuals on their annual migration while the east coast of Australia welcomes over 37,000 individuals. The general pattern of migration for many baleen whales is to migrate north during the winter to warmer waters for the arrival of newborn calves and then return back south to food filled waters during the spring. It is a long journey but ensures the greatest success for these baleen whales as the winter and spring is their calving and breeding season. Humpback Whales take over the Australian coastline during this time and there are a number of different locations to enjoy this annual spectacle.

June to August
The peak of the northern migration is during the winter months as thousands of Humpback Whales migrate along the Australian coastline. Augusta in Western Australia is a perfect location to observe competition pods, social whales and spectacular communication as the Language of the Whales is on full display with the peak of the breeding season. During June to August we also see the same activity in the waters just off the Surfers Paradise skyline on the Gold Coast as excited, competitive Humpback Whales make the most of their time visiting this special part of the world.

July to August is also a fantastic time to keep a close eye out for Southern Right Whales in Augusta as they arrive in the sheltered waters of Flinders Bay. The population of Southern Right Whales in Australia is approximately 2,500 thousand individuals so sightings of these species is very special. During the months of August to October Southern Right Whales can also be observed along stretches of the southern Australian coastline including Albany, Bremer Bay, Esperance and the Australian Bight being favoured nursery sounds for the mother whales.

September to December
The season has changed and spring is upon us as the warmth starts to slowly creep back into each and everyday. The whales have also noticed this change of season and have begun to start making their way back south towards their summer feeding grounds located in the Southern Ocean. It is a very exciting and social time of the season as many Humpback Whales take the opportunity to interact with others who are also on the southbound journey. Mothers and their new calves are also now ready to begin the long swim south with the little ones healthy and strong. The best place to see the Humpback Whales southbound migration is from the beautiful city of Perth in Western Australia or the warm waters of the Gold Coast in Queensland. Hundreds of Humpback Whales migrate past these locations each and everyday from September through to the end of the year. It is the perfect way to complete our season being surrounded by the next generation with new calves excited and enthusiastic for their life ahead which fills us with much joy. The annual migration during May to December might see the Humpback Whales take over the coastline but there are many other species of cetacean we also observe during our winter and spring tours.

  • Southern Right Whale
  • Dwarf Minke Whale
  • Blue Whale
  • Fin Whale
  • Bryde’s Whale
  • Sei Whale
  • Omura Whale
  • False Killer Whales
  • Orca
  • Striped Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Indo-Pacific Dolphin

Once you have decided on the perfect species and departure location for your journey we can now recommend our top tips for planning your whale watching experience.

Flexible Departure Days
Depending on if you are travelling locally or visiting the region, providing yourself with a flexible departure date is highly recommend. Our team will get a good weather forecast generally 5 to 7 days out from your chosen travel date and will monitor for any adverse weather conditions. Especially if you are travelling by booking your Whale Watch tour earlier in your stay you ensure that there is flexibility in transferring to the best weather day possible for your experience if adverse weather happens to be expected. Our team are always here to help and you are welcome to provide alternative travel dates in your booking notes or contact our team direct to see what the latest forecast is for your upcoming tour.

Dress in Layers
The ocean breeze is one of the great enjoyments of being out on the water but it can be refreshing, even on a summers day. Dressing in layers ensures that you can stay as warm as you need or take off a few layers if required. A warm, waterproof jacket is recommend especially on colder days or if rain is forecast while flat shoes are the most suitable option for when onboard vessels. A hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are also recommended if you wish to spend most of your time on the outside areas of the vessel. Ponchos are only necessary if rain is forecast and also a handy option to bring with you for our day tours with the Orca or Blue Whales when weather conditions can be variable over a few hours at sea.

Motion Sickness Prevention
Prevention is always better than cure and we recommend discussing with your local pharmacist or doctor the best remedies if you are susceptible to motion sickness. Motion sickness affects everyone differently and if you have not spent much time on the ocean before it is always a good idea if recommended by your pharmacist/doctor to look at preventative measure. It can make a very big difference and it is important to follow the directions as advised with most tablets needing to be taken prior to departure and at the correct dosage. Fresh breeze, remaining on the lower decks and not reading or using your phone can all assist those who are susceptible. Our team are onboard to help with any questions you may have throughout your tour and assist with making your experience an enjoyable one.

Early Arrival
Departure times are very important and just like a plane when it is time for the vessel to depart we are not able to remain waiting at the jetty. Guests are required to be at their departure location 30 minutes prior to departure time to ensure that there is no risk of running late. Please double check your departure location, parking or drop-off options and if your are not familiar with the area please allow for extra time to reach your destination. Departing on time is important for the symmetry of tours to ensure plenty fo time with the whales and no rushing for our guests.

Camera Equipment
All cetaceans require a respectful reactionary distance and it is also part of interaction rules and regulations to ensure our whales and dolphins comfort at all times. Depending on the species, if they are travelling with calves, hunting or resting we will generally be between 100 to 300 meters away from the pod of cetacean we are working with. Usually the natural curiosity of the cetaceans we work with results in the pods approaching our vessel for a closer look or to interact and in those occasions they can be within reaching distance of the vessel. During each tour you will find that we will have a combination of both very close and normal distance interactions which means that both DSLR cameras and iPhones can come in handy! If you are simply wanting to enjoy your time with the whales our onboard photographer will capture all the action of the day with the very best images available to download free of charge on our website at the Daily Whale for all guests.

Observing whales and dolphins in the wild is one of the great joys in life and during our time with them all else tends to be forgotten and we are very much living in the moment! Learning their language, understanding their purpose in our ecosystems and how to correctly interact with these beautiful creatures is taught through our live and educational commentary onboard each tour.

Our family have spent years perfecting our Whale Watch techniques and thousands of hours observing many different species of cetacean over three different oceans around Australia year round. Our goal is to pass on that knowledge to our guests who join our tours and enable a unique insight into the world of the whales and build a bigger appreciation and respect for their incredible life story.

Hopefully these tips and recommendations will help you in planning your whale watching experience and ignite an excitement and motivation to spend more time with these magnificent creatures who we are fortunate enough to call mates. We hope to welcome you onboard soon!