We're following humpback whales south in their annual migration
02.07.2011 - 05.07.2011 22 °C
Every year from July, pods of whales head south along the Queensland and NSW coasts. This year, we're joining them. Our first sightings were off Lady Elliot Island and now we're seeing them at Ballina and Byron.
Yesterday afternoon, with our friend Meg and her daughters, we saw whales frolicking off South Ballina beach. The whales were very close to the coast. We could see their tails clearly. And we saw dolphins too, both in the Richmond River mouth and off the beach. Some of them were surfing the waves at the beach and one jumped out of the water like it had career plans at Sea World.
Today, we saw whales off Cape Byron, mainland Australia's most easterly point and a well known spot in NSW to whale watch. At the Cape Byron lighthouse, a blackboard records 173 whales sighted since the southward migration began. We spotted some through binoculars - lots of people leaning over railings and going 'ooh' and 'did you see that?'.
The whales' southward migration follows their earlier trek north to breed. Hervey Bay (Qld) was gearing up for whale watching season when we were there. That's where whales give birth - where the ocean is warm. Many come back year after year and are given names. Humpbacks are baleen whales that filter krill through what look like palm fronds (baleens) in their huge mouths. Krill are tiny but there are lots of them in Antarctic waters which is why the whales feed there. We've seen whales offshore in past years from Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee. It's always exciting.
If we're sounding a bit like hippies, it's because we're living in the treetops. Our Byron Bay accommodation has views over the trees to Tallow Beach. Also, we've just stayed a night with friends Meg and Doug and family in the beautiful rolling green hills near Ballina. The kids picked oranges there to make juice, then fed the rind to the cows - true recycling. Before we turned into hippies, we dossed down with Keith's sister and brother-in-law in Woolloongabba in inner-city Brisbane, where you can walk to everything - footy games, restaurants, parks, transport etc. So, thanks to people's hospitality, we're sampling different styles of living.
Soon we'll be home and back to our usual way of living in suburban Sydney. But it's been a privilege seeing friends and family and exploring their various Australian habitats.