Why Do Humpback Whales Travel in Escort Pods?

Why do Humpback Whales travel in Escort Pods? It is a great question we get asked on many occasions. Female Humpback Whales, like most of us girls, enjoy the company and security of a male when in certain social and migratory timeframes. The reason why do Humpback Whales travel in escort pods is generally based around protection, companionship or a suitable mate.

The females will flirt with a male Humpback to get their attention by way of pec slapping and breaching to ‘call in’ the males when they need an escort to swim with them on their 13,000 kilometre journey from Antarctica to the Kimberlys and return, most will be pregnant already so not looking to mate, but instead seeking a bodyguard and companion. Even adult whales must be wary of their top predator the Orca and travelling solo always comes with increased risk. A female will much prefer to have the company of a protective male escort on her journey and they are less likely to attract the attention of Orca this way by travelling together. Should a female have a young calf with her the same reasons on requiring an escort remain, a bodyguard for both mother and calf. Today we were surrounded by five different pods with two of these mother/calf pods having the company of escort males. Our first pod had one male escort who was proudly swimming alongside mother whale as they worked together as a team to safely move through the resting grounds.

A large breach from a young calf alerted our attention to activity growing in the pod closest to a large ship moving through the area. We could see that this female Humpback Whale had attracted the attention of not just one, but two large male whales who were following her closely. One of the males appeared to be holding position as primary male escort as he body blocked the second male who was at times challenging his spot next to the female. Fluke swipes, trumpeting and snaking was observed throughout the interaction as both males ever so politely tried their best to outdo each other without upsetting mother Humpback. We wished them well for the rest of the journey ahead as it appeared the challenging male was not going anywhere and for this female Humpback and her little calf they had two enormous male bodyguards escorting them towards Rottnest Island. A flying fish darted across the bow as we departed and this may be the last wave of male escorts heading south before we are left with the company of mother/calf pods taking on the epic journey towards Antarctica without the protection of male escorts as the change of season approaches.

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