Monday, September 26, 2011

Dolphins, Tires, and Whales

My last blog left off with us finding Rossmount B&B in the pitch dark.  By day light we could see it was a lovely (albeit remote) spot.  Breakfast was served out of doors in a two walled, ceiling-ed room.  It was very pretty but cold!!  It was also 6:30 am and the sun was not terribly strong yet. 

We wanted to get such an early start because down the road 45 min. at the coast was wild dolphin feeding.  Apparently a number of years ago a dolphin was rescued  from a fishing net by a few volunteers.  After being rescued, the dolphin continued to come back to Tin Can Bay and the volunteers would feed her.  This connection turned into a long lasting routine and she eventually brought her mate with her and after some time, their son.   Now a days it has become a more organized experience.  

Volunteers with wild dolphins waiting for breakfast
 For $5 you can buy a pail with a few fish in it, and cue up by the water.  The dolphins are wild, so the organizing volunteers are careful to make sure that only about an eighth of their daily food requirement is given to them each morning. 

Penni-Sue feeds a dolphin

Serenna feeding a dolphin

Zac feeding a wild dolphin
 The volunteers are always the last ones to feed the dolphins so they know when breakfast is over.  Then the dolphins swim away until the next morning....

It was time to drive to Hervey Bay for some whale watching.   We knew we needed to be there by noon to arrange our afternoon trip.  What should have been less than a 2 hour drive turned into 4 hour pain in the ass.  On a rather isolated road we blew a tire.  

No phone reception, no towns for at least 30 km, nothing but forest and one lonely long road.  Really, it felt like the drive between North Bay and New Liskeard only with much less traffic (only saw a handful of other vehicles) and no impressive Canadian Shield .  Fortunately we had a spare tire and a handy daddy to get the job done! 

Temporarily stranded by the roadside

At the next town we called the car rental company and were informed that we were responsible for replacing the tire.  Nice!  So, not wanting to risk driving any further without a spare (cell phone reception across Australia is very patching – Big country, little population) we had to find a garage and wait for a new tire to be put on the rim.  It was a very good thing that we started the day at 5:30am as we actually made it to Hervey Bay in time to go Whale watching. 

 If I could give each of you a gift of a day out, it would be to Hervey Bay in Sept. to see the whales here.  It was amazing.  I truly wish I could fill the boat with family and friends just so you could see first hand how BIG, playful, curious, and awe inspiring the whales were.  Sadly my pictures do not do it justice but I hope I can convey a small sense of how amazing these whales were.  

This is only the back half of the whale

"Spy Hop": taking a look above the surface

Three whales, one is a calf approx. 6 months

These are Humpback Whales and every year on their migration from the Antarctic to the warmer water of the tropics, between Aug. and Oct., they come into Hervey Bay where there is a huge body of water between the mainland and the world’s largest sand Island (Fraser Island).  Here the humpbacks rest up and play and feed for a few weeks, giving their calves time to strengthen up before continuing their migration.  Apparently it is a hot spot for whale research and scientist are able to identify individual whales and their whale songs and track their migrations. Our boat Captain lowered a microphone into the water and we could hear the whales singing – very cool.  

We learned that they have some behaviour patterns to watch for.  This post shows each of them.

When we first spotted the whales it was from a distance but it was still very exciting.  There are rules that boats cannot drive right up to the whales and bother them.  So each time a new pod of whales was spotted the Captain would get with in the allowed limit and then we would wait and see if the whales were interested in us.  If so, they would swim over to the boat and check us out!  Our guide assured us that the whales were very curious and they would stick around longer if we waved and talked to them.   We had some VERY close encounters.   A whale came so close to the water level viewing platform that Jason could have touched it.  Their skin has all sorts of muscles and sea crustaceans attached to them.  

Humpback whale about to swim under boat

Whale tale (notice Zac front and center)
Whale blowing bubbles beside the boat
We had about 3 hours with the whales (- imagine the number of photos our 3 cameras took!) and about an hour of travel time each way.   Near the end of our afternoon we came upon yet another pod of three whales that were pec. slapping and breeching.   Just when we thought the day could not get any better, they swam closer to us and pec. slapped at the side of the boat.  We could feel the mist when the blew out their blow holes.  We learned that Humpback whales have two blow holes and they have a baleen instead of teeth.  They feed on krill, not fish (or people), making Humpbacks the gentle giants of the ocean.

Humpback Whale breeching

Humpback Whale Pec. Slapping

More Pec. Slapping beside the boat

3 whales, including mother and calf
We headed back to shore as the sun was setting and as one last treat a lone dolphin decided to swim along side the boat for few minutes!  Awesome experience.

Dolphin racing with our boat

A memorable day!

One last 'spy hop' because they are so cool!!