Home' Traveller : Scoop Traveller WA 020 Contents July - December 2011 Scoop Traveller 299
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CAPE TO CAPE
ith a six-month whale-watching season on offer,
the Margaret River region is one of the top spots in
Australia to catch sight of the annual migration of
humpbacks, southern rights and blue whales from
their summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to their breeding grounds
on WA’s north coast. During this annual feeding and breeding cycle,
an ever-increasing number of whales use the protected waters of
Flinders Bay in Augusta and Geographe Bay near Dunsborough as
staging posts on their long return journey.
WHEN AND WHERE IN AUGUSTA
June-August | The pregnant humpbacks, often with a juvenile in tow,
tend to be the first to arrive in Flinders Bay in early June. During the
weeks that follow, they’re joined by the immature males and females,
then by the mature males and breeding females. While all the whales
make use of the bay’s protected waters for rest and relaxation, the
whale-watching fun really begins when males start vying for the
attention of the females.
September | Southern right whales arrive to give birth to their young, and
mate. The shallow water of the bay gives the vulnerable calves protection
from predators like great whites that attack from below.
What you’ll see in Flinders Bay
Up to 200 whales in the bay at any one time
Females cavorting with their juveniles
Males aggressively competing for the attention of a female with
displays of breaching and tail-slapping
Mothers with calves close to shore.
The best viewing spots are along Leeuwin Road, between Flinders
Memorial lookout and the Leeuwin lighthouse, about 8km from Augusta.
Pull over into one of the gravel car parks, or head for the lighthouse where
there’s the option of climbing the 39m tower for a bird’s eye view, or
using the two viewing platforms at ground level. Both are equipped with
powerful binoculars; the one on the south-eastern side has universal
access and binoculars suitable for children or people in wheelchairs.
Whale watching cruises
Nothing compares with getting out on the water for an up-close-and-
personal encounter with these fascinating creatures. The whales are
known to be as curious about us as we are about them, and year after
year the same whales interact with the boats. It is thought that they
recognise the ‘voice’ of the boat’s engine. Make sure you bring a warm
jacket, a camera for plenty of action shots and a sense of adventure.
WHEN AND WHERE IN DUNSBOROUGH
September-mid December | With newborn calves to consider, travel
down the ‘humpback highway’ slows, and by early September the first of
the humpbacks begin to arrive in Geographe Bay. Throughout October,
their numbers swell as they make the most of the calm turquoise waters
before tackling the arduous journey around the capes and back to
Antarctica. In late November, they are joined by the rare and endangered
blue whales, which feed in the Perth canyon off Rottnest.
What you’ll see in Geographe Bay
Hundreds of humpbacks frolicking in the bay
Mothers keeping a close watch on their calves
The largest animal in the world, the elusive blue whale.
With its expansive views across Geographe Bay, the best viewing spot is
the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse balcony, about 13km from Dunsborough.
There is also a whale-watching lookout, which is a 1.3km walk from the
lighthouse car park. Or, bring a chair and join local whale monitors at
Point Picquet on Meelup Rd, 800m past Meelup Beach. Look for a small
sign, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars.
Whale watching cruises
Over one thousand humpbacks passed through Geographe Bay last
season, so it’s not surprising tour operators boasted a 100 per cent
success rate. Be aware that the tour leaving from Quindalup Beach entails
a transfer by tender, while others leave from Port Geographe Marina.
The best way to spot a whale from a distance is to watch for the cloud of
spray or mist that appears as the whale exhales through its blowhole.
A humpback whale spyhopping.
Whale tours can get you up close
to the magnificent creatures
(Photography Legend Charters).
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