Wednesday, 13 April 2016

#44 - Dolphin and Whale Watching (Oz Whale Watching)

I think the title of 'Dolphin and Whale Watching' is a little bit misleading.  In particular, the word 'watching'.  When I think of watching something, TV for example, I think of sitting and observing that thing for a prolonged period of time.  I would be pretty disappointed if a mate invited me round to watch TV, then made me sit for hours, insisting that he thought he'd caught a glimpse of the TV a minute ago, and was sure it was probably still in the area.

However, when you go dolphin and whale watching, you spend the vast majority of the time not doing the thing it describes.  On a four hour trip, you would be doing pretty well if you actually spent five minutes of that time watching whales or dolphins.  Maybe 'Occasional Whale Sighting', or 'Surface of the Sea Watching in Anticipation of Seeing Whales' would be a more accurate, but less catchy description.

What a tale
Regardless of the accuracy of the title, a whale watching tour (no offence to the dolphin fans out there, but it feels a bit  unwieldy to continually write 'dolphin and whale watching' every time) is a great activity, as long as you don't mind spending a long time on a boat doing not much.  As it happens, spending long periods of time on a boat doing not much is one of my favourite ways to spend time.  Even more so when there is a bar on board, as there was on our whale watching tour with Oz Whale Watching.

This one had more scratches than my mobile phone screen
The tour left from Darling Harbour, and included a barbecue lunch.  We travelled a fair distance out of the harbour, during which time you can enjoy the views of Sydney Harbour, along with what was actually a pretty tasty barbecue lunch, and some nice cold beer.  Or wine if you prefer.  You can even have a soft drink if you insist.  The journey was quite pleasant, but one or two people on our trip didn't enjoy it quite so much, judging by the smell and pasty looking passengers when we ventured downstairs to get our lunch.  If you do get seasick, I would take some tablets beforehand.  If you're not sure, I would take some anyway.  If not for yourself, then for the other passengers.


Where is the whale?  Oh, thanks
After probably an hour or so, we finally stopped, and the extremely enthusiastic host started giving us various details over a microphone about whales and where they had been sighted.  You do need a bit of patience for this, as we did stop a couple of times and see nothing but deep blue sea.  Luckily, we are never more patient than when we have a beer in our hand.

After a couple of stops, the host suddenly got very excited, as did half the boat.  The other half quickly moved to the other side of the boat to enjoy some views of humpback whales in the not too distant ocean.  The first views were probably no more than adequate, but we spent the next hour or two shuttling around various sites, and at times we followed groups, or pods to use the whale-y expression, of between two and five whales.  There were also sightings of dolphins and killer whales, although I believe they are technically dolphins as well.  You don't just get a barely coherent review with my posts, you get some education as well.

As I said, the initial sightings were no more than distant glimpses, but as we followed the whales, we got some very close up views.  At times they couldn't have been more than five or ten metres away from the boat.  All the waiting makes it seem particularly special when you finally get some good sightings, and they really are an impressive sight up close.  One of the few occasions in life when the work 'majestic' actually seems appropriate.  We probably spent around half an hour to forty five minutes with some regular good quality sightings (still adding up to about the five minutes total mentioned in my intro...), before turning and heading back to Sydney.

Free city watching included with the whale watching tour
It was a fairly long day, with lots of sitting around doing nothing, but we really enjoyed it.  Given that whales are wild animals, they can't guarantee that you will see any, but they do it anyway.  They reckon they have a 90-95% success rate in seeing whales, and if you don't see any, you can go back another day.  Even if you don't see whales, there are worse ways to spend a day than crusing around Sydney Harbour and the coast of Sydney with a beer in your hand.

What do you reckon?  Does the waiting just build the anticipation and make it any better?  Don't leave us waiting in anticipation, and leave a comment below.

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