Hump day? Rather the day of the humpback whales! Give the screen a break and head to one of WA’s best whale watching spots instead.
During their annual migration, Ningaloo Reef hosts one of the highest densities of humpback whales in the world: it’s a must visit for anyone serious about whale watching. The UNESCO-listed reef is the longest fringing reef in the world and in places lies less than 100 meters from shimmering white shore, meaning plenty of opportunities to enjoy the rich ecosystem that he houses. Get up close to wildlife on a snorkeling expedition, complete with humpacks and of course, the iconic Ningaloo whale sharks. More of a land-lubber? Be sure to stop at Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, just outside Exmouth, for an excellent vantage point over the cape.
When: August-October, sometimes as early as June
After passing through Ningaloo, this huge group – estimated at over 30,000 humpback whales – continues on to the Kimberley to give birth in the warm northern waters. Sheltered by the Boucaniers Archipelago and the Bonaparte Archipelago further north, this is the perfect area to watch whales and their hatchlings as they learn to swim and develop their blubber for the return trip. Camden Sound is also where you’ll find Montgomery Reef – an inshore reef that’s dramatically exposed with tidal changes of over eight meters and home to six endangered species of sea turtles.
Albany’s history with whaling is well documented, with the Cheynes Beach whaling station still in operation until 1978. Fortunately, things have changed and you can now spot humpback and right whales australs as they frolic in King George Sound on their journey north. of Antarctica. The southernmost tip of WA has one of the longest whale watching seasons in the world, starting in June and continuing through October. From the mainland, the Marine Drive Lookout offers an excellent vantage point over Frenchman’s Bay, as well as convenient access by car – but if you want to feel the Antarctic wind in your hair, there are plenty of coastal paths in the region for different levels of expertise. . The Bald Head Trail is a 12.5 kilometer walk that spans the granite slopes of the Flinders Peninsula, while the Stony Hill Heritage Trail is a shorter 500 m loop that overlooks Torndirrup National Park and King George Sound.
Like its southern neighbor, Albany, Augusta has the advantage of being one of the few places where you can see humpback whales and southern right whales interacting. In June, humpback whales are at their peak in the area, with large groups of males showing off their acrobatics in an attempt to woo the females, while the following month sees the arrival of pregnant southern right whales to the area. Unlike humpback whales, which travel north to give birth, endangered southern right whales will give birth in the sheltered bays around Augusta. Lucky whale watchers might see newborn calves exploring Flinders Bay, or maybe even get a rare sighting of a blue or minke whale. Coastal lookouts include the scenic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse or head to the viewing platform at Hamelin Bay.
When: End of May-August.
What goes up must come down – and the same goes for whales. After migrating north to give birth, humpback whales begin the journey back to Antarctic waters with their young, resting and nursing in Geographe Bay along the way. Enjoy one of the many (many!) lookouts along the bay, including the spectacular Cap Naturaliste lighthouse or the Pointe Picquet lookout.
Just east of Albany is Bremer Bay, a biodiversity hotspot we are only just beginning to understand. What do we know? Off the coast is a continental shelf: an underwater canyon whose depths contain a high concentration of biocarbons. Every summer, the cold Antarctic Current brings these nutrient-rich deep waters to the surface. This, in turn, attracts an array of marine life that includes orcas (which you might know as killer whales), sperm whales, pilot whales and beaked whales, sharks, dolphins and, wait for it , giant squid! Every time we learn a new fact about this southern wonder, our minds are blown. Go for the day with Naturaliste Charters – a locally run ecotourism charter that plays a key role in researching and conserving the area.
We’re spoiled for choice in WA – with so many places along the coast allowing us to see some pretty majestic creatures all year round. In fact, we’re so lucky you can even spot blue whales on a day trip from town! Less than 20 kilometers west of Rottnest Island is Perth Canyon Marine Park. Stretching over 2,900 square kilometers and reaching depths of four kilometers, between March and May, it’s also where you’ll find Australia’s largest concentration of blue whales. In addition to blue whales, you may also spot humpback whales, orcas, minkes, sunfish and many other marine megafauna. If you’re looking from the mainland, head to the western end of the island; lookouts like the Cape Vlamingh viewing platform are perfect.
When: March-May (blue whales), September-November (humpback whales)
Image credit: Pablo Nidam