Dear ‘famly’ friends!
I am just so excited to share this new edition of the famly blog with you. Australia has been my choice of home for a while now, and it still surprises me how much there is to explore. Today I am super excited to share with you experiences and learnings on our Whale Watching Tour with our two little girls. I really encourage you to go and have some fun watching the whales; be it from a boat or from anywhere along the coast.
Whales have been one of my favourite animals since I was a kid. They have always fascinated me and two years ago I finally had my first encounter with these gentle giants thanks to Manly Whale Watching; it was a spectacular experience. Back when my girls were very small, it was hard to plan anything as one of my girls has Asthma and the littlest cold could turn into a major drama. But we were lucky; she was well for our first encounter with the whales. We rugged up in warm clothes and had a couple of hours with nothing but the salty air in our faces and being on the ocean. Oh my, it was so much fun! In addition to spotting whales, we loved feeling the boat bouncing on the swell! It made all of us laugh out loud! Can you imagine a baby and a 2.5 year old laughing out loud with the boat bouncing up and down! Hahahahaaaa… What an experience we ended up having! We got to witness the “northern migration” when the humpback whales head north to Queensland to breed and calve - it was a sight we will never forget!
At this time of the year the whales are on their southern migration to Antarctica after having given birth. Yay, what a joy this would be to see - the babies are with them & it seems as though the female humpbacks are partying in the warm tropical waters! During this time, we have been told the humpbacks are way more playful and curious and they are often seen ‘mugging’. Ha, do you know what ‘mugging’ means? It is when one or more whales approach a vessel/boat and swims around it – they are saying ‘hello’ and checking out the boat. The boats need to be in neutral (so that no harm is caused to the whales) and the passengers can sit back and enjoy the joyous sight of these friendly creatures.
Sometimes the whales also spy hop (where a whale will bring its mouth and eyes out of the water). I haven’t experienced this yet but I am going on another tour in October and I am very hopeful to see this! I can’t wait to view those bumpy, rounded parts on their mouth, which are called tubercles. I love learning all about these majestic creatures so I can share some of these facts with my family and of course you!
Here are some of my top tips for you guys on how to make whale watching super fun!
Some Facts About Humpbacks - Humpback whales, scientifically known as Megaptera Novaeangliae, are found in all of the world’s oceans and can grow up to 15 meters long and weigh around 30 tonnes. The species belongs to a group called rorquals. The largest whales are almost all rorquals, including ones even bigger than the humpback (such as the blue whale, the largest species to ever roam the earth).
Instead of teeth, its mouth is full of baleen. Baleen is made of keratin and acts like a filter. The humpback takes a huge mouthful of seawater, and then it squeezes the water out through the baleen which makes sure that the edible things are stuck inside.
Humpbacks are known to feed cooperatively as part of groups. They swim in a circular formation below a school of fish. By strategically releasing bubbles from their blowholes, the team of humpbacks creates a “bubble net”. The fish see it as a barrier so they don’t swim through, and they become trapped. The whales then lunge into the circle with their mouths wide open, efficiently capturing their meal.
The whales don’t get to feed year round. Instead they feed on their migration between cold polar waters where there is lots of food. Then in the warm tropical waters they can mate and give birth. The amazing migrations are the longest made by any mammal! During the mating season, male whales may spend hours “singing” a song, which to human ears sounds melancholy. All the males in a group sing the same song, and each year that song changes. For a male humpback to successfully mate, he must compete with other males in an intense “heat run”. Let us know in the comments if you would like to know more about the “heat run” and we can provide you with further details! (so much fun to learn – but I didn’t want to completely overload you with my whale enthusiasm) ☺
Plan ahead – Plan ahead, check the weather, know what to wear and what essentials to take - like sunscreen!
Download the famly app – Before doing all the research yourself remember that we have done all the hard work for you! Feel free to save yourself time when doing your research by downloading the ‘famly’ mobile app for Apple or Android. You can make use of our research and even book your whale watching tour via the ‘famly’ app. You can also head to some of the beautiful vantage points along our coastline; in our national parks, along coastal tracks and cliff tops, but make sure you and your kids rug up!
Check recent whale sightings – If you want to give yourself and your kids the best chance to see the whales make sure you check the latest whale sightings. Explain to your kids how they can spot the whales and perhaps show them some videos of what a tail flap looks like.
Choose your park – NSW national parks provide some of the best whale watching locations along the coast. Choose how far you want to go – you might like to choose your local national park and head there, or make a day out of it and travel further afield. There are whale-watching hotspots all along the coast.
Be Prepared – The last thing you want is your kids complaining about being hungry, thirsty and bored. So before you leave home stock up with lots of drinks, snacks and a packed lunch for the whole family to keep all bellies full (if you are booked with Manly Whale Watching Tours, some complementary foods and snacks will be provided).
Binoculars are super important for better viewing! If you are in a park or at a vantage point, binoculars are a must; as otherwise your kids may become frustrated if the whales are too hard to spot. And don't forget your camera so your kids can share their pictures of the whales with schoolmates. You might also like to take folding chairs and picnic blankets for extra comfort.
You can make whatever you do fun AND educational – kids respond well to games, so turn your whale watching experience into a game – “I spy with my little eye” (or as my little one used to say: “I spy little my eye: …..”) a whale; a whale jumping out of the water; a whale's tail” etc.
Everyone knows kids are not the most patient of creatures, and sometimes whale watching may involve some waiting, so make it fun by printing out pictures of whales for them to colour in or have them draw what they see. You can also research species and whale behaviours before you go and explain what each of the whale's behaviours actually means.
Have a backup plan – Whales are wild animals and of course there are never any guarantees you will see them, so make sure you have other things in mind for the kids. Check out other options around Sydney using the ‘famly’ app.
Please share your experiences! - We would love you to share your whale watching experiences with us and other families in your area! Please post your photo/s on Instagram and Facebook and tag us: @thefamlyapp #thefamlyapp
Help your kids grow into responsible adults – Most large whales species found in Australian waters were pushed almost to extinction but have rebounded tremendously in recent times. Let your kids know just how special what they’re seeing really is! Help them learn what they can do to ensure the whales have a positive future.
We always take a bag along with us to collect rubbish on the beach or parks we play at. My girls keep saying: “Look mummy, rubbish! Naughty people!”. Remember even a small amount of plastic left to blow into the ocean can be mistakenly eaten by whales and other marine life such as turtles so make sure you dispose of your rubbish wisely.
Remember to check out the southern migration in the upcoming school holidays! Have fun and let me know what you think about ‘famly’.
Happy Kids, Happy Days…