How to spot a whale
Southern right whale
Booderee National Park provides fabulous opportunities for whale watching. The best location is at the historic Cape St George Lighthouse at the end of Stoney Creek Road.
Humpback and southern right whales begin their northerly migration in early June and continue to the first week in July. They are heading to their breeding grounds in the warmer Queensland waters.
The best time to spot a whale from a terrestrial position, such as at the Cape St George Lighthouse, is in the late morning or early afternoon, on a clear and calm day. The glare from the sun will be lessened at these times allowing for clearer viewing.
Whale watching is an activity that often requires some patience and a good set of binoculars. However, on some days, more often during the southerly migration in spring, whales will come very close to shore and may spend time frolicking in sheltered bays with their newly born calves. When whales do come close to shore it is important to remain quiet and not disturb them. This is for the benefit of both the whales and the whale watchers, as the whales will be more likely to remain visible if not startled or stressed.
Humpback whales were nearly hunted to extinction. The last whaling station in NSW, at Byron Bay, closed in 1962 because so few whales could be found. Humpback whales are now protected throughout Australia and in NSW are listed as a vulnerable species under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
The humpback whale is one of the most easily recognisable of the large whales. Often the first sign of its presence is its 'blow', a cloud of vapour that it shoots into the air when it breaks the surface to breathe. They can be identified by their amazing show of breaches, rolls and fluke up dives.
Listen to some humpback whale sounds at whalecenter.org/photos-media/audio-files.html
Southern right whale
By the 1840s, southern right whales had been hunted out, and the whaling industry had collapsed. Populations of southern rights have been recovering ever since. Today, scientists estimate that there are around 5000 southern right whales in the world. Southern right whales are protected throughout Australia, and are listed as a threatened species under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.
The southern right whale has two blow holes and they produce a distinctive V-shaped cloud of vapour blown out when the whale surfaces to breathe.
During the whale migration times you may meet up with an ORRCA volunteer. They have been recording sightings for up to 10 years along the Australian coast. They are a source of knowledge about the whales and are happy to share their information. ORRCA plays a vital role in the rescue of and research into whales and also dolphins and seals. The hotline is 02 9415 3333.