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Whale watching in Lake Macquarie is a must!

Do you remember the first time you saw a whale breach? I can remember looking out to the horizon and seeing a spurt of water rising. As I stared at it I saw the back of the whale breach the water and a tail rise up. I was sure it was my imagination but then up it came again. I was so excited. As I pointed out to sea shouting to my family on the beach, I remember feeling goosebumps on my arms. Even now, I still feel that same excitement every time I see a whale breach. The best whale-watching lake Macquarie has to offer can be found at many spots along the coast. From Swansea Heads to Dudley, find the best spot for your family to enjoy whale watching together.

Whale watching Lake Macquarie

Whale migration can be seen along the east coast of Australia every year between May and November. They spend the summer months feeding down in the cold waters of Antarctica. In late autumn, whales begin their migratory journey swimming North towards the warm tropical waters of the Pacific. Once they reach these warm waters they breed and birth their calves before once again heading south to the cold Antarctic waters for summer.

Video Credit: Caleb Pritchard via NBN Television

Best places to see whales in Lake Macquarie

In Lake Macquarie, we have some excellent places for spotting whales. Redhead beach and Redhead bluff are favourite spots of ours. There are so many times we’ve been playing on the sand and unexpectedly looked up to see one of these giants of the sea swimming past. Whales can also be spotted from Swansea Heads, Dudley and Caves Beach. If you want to take the family for a nice walk with a view, check out the clifftop walk to Pinny beach as this will give you a great view of the ocean.

The most common whales that migrate along our east coast are Humpback whales and Southern Right whales.  

Humpback whales

Humpback whales are large mammals. They can grow up to 16 metres long with adult females typically longer than adult males. Humpbacks can weigh up to 44 tonnes. They are identified by the hump on their back, their long pectoral fins, their small dorsal fin and the knobs (these are called tubercles and are hair follicles) that cover their heads. These beautiful whales also have a fanned tail.

Humpback migration

Humpbacks can migrate as far as 10,000 km from Antarctica along our coast. They tend to feed during the summer months on krill in the Antarctic waters, then, live on their fat reserves over winter. Young males usually lead migration with pregnant cows as well as cow and calves following behind. A female Humpback whale can give birth every 2 or 3 years and will nurse the calf for about 12 months. A healthy Humpback whale generally lives for about 50 years and there are now estimated to be 80,000 living in the wild.

Did you know male Humpbacks sing?

Male Humpback whales are also known for their songs. They’re loud enough to be heard from far distances. During the mating season, it’s the male Humpbacks that sing to find their mate. The male can sing for as long as 24 hours with a single song lasting up to 20 minutes. At other times of the year Humpback whales ‘talk’ to each other but with different sounds that are believed to be a guide to food or when they feel sad or lonely.

Southern Right whales

Southern Right whales can grow between 14 and 18 metres long. They can weigh up to 80 tonnes. You can identify them by their broad backs and their lack of a dorsal fin. They have wide pectoral fins and hard skin on their heads that are white. Southern Rights also have two separate blow holes that provide a V-shaped blow. The spout they send up can go up to 5 metres high!  

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Impacts of whaling

Sadly the ‘right’ in their names comes from the days of commercial whaling when they were the right whales to catch. They are slow swimmers and produce a lot of meat and oil that was used for illumination and lubrication. As a result of whaling, these whales almost became extinct going from an estimated 55,000 – 70,000 in the southern hemisphere in the late 1700’s down to a meagre 300 in the 1920s. There are now an estimated 3500 living in Australian waters.

Acrobats of the sea

The Southern Right whale’s head is so large that it accounts for almost one-third of their length making this one of the largest heads in any whale species. Just like a Humpback whale, southern right whales have a gestational period of about 11 months before giving birth to a calf which they nurse for about a year.

These whales are the acrobats of the sea. Even though they are massive they perform headstands in the water. They tip themselves vertically upside down and wave their tail in the air. They’ve also been seen ‘sailing’ where they use their tails to push them along with the wind.

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