Saturday, 6 July 2013

Sydney Harbour Whale Watching Cruise

Stop Crying Whale. The Tale of Tail Watching Cruise.

18 °C

We've decided to do a whale watching cruise to celebrate Atta's dad's birthday (85 this year). In 2001, we came back to Australia and celebrated his birthday with the bridge climb.

Julie hit upon the idea when she came across a whale watching Groupon online with 59% discount. So why not? Although this is my 2nd whale watching cruise, this is the 1st time we do it as a group.

We boarded the cruise on King Street Wharf 8. Townhall Station is the closest station to get there in a 6 mins walk

The whales do their annual migration to the warmer north from the South Pole during winter (as far north as the Great Barrier Reef). So in order to see the whales, the cruise took us out of Sydney harbour (or Port Jackson if you're pedantic) and into the rough open sea. But we didn't have to go very far from the mouth of the harbour to see these gentle giants of the sea - the largest animals on earth - as they tend to hug along the shore as they swim north.

Sometimes, the whale got confused because of the modern ship communication, wandered into the Harbour, and made into the 6 o'clock news. These don't happen often, hence it's still news.


Hornby Lighthouse on South Head forms onr of the arms of the Sydney Harbour
Hornby Lighthouse on South Head forms one of the 2 arms of the Sydney Harbour.
These 2 arms or headlands are better known as North and South Heads. Or just the Heads.

It was a calm day for whale watching. Mind you, it still rocked quite a bit, after all the cruise is a small vessel that carried only 75 passengers. As far as open seas goes, it was considered calm. A few kids had threw up as soon as we got out of the calmer harbour. No adults suffered this because adults who get seasick easily would probably avoid this kind of cruise, or take anti-seasickness remedies. As for kids, this might have been the 1st time they discover seasickness, and making it a memorable trip for the wrong reason.

At first, not far from the mouth of the harbour, there were plenty of false alarms. The captain would point and say "Look! It's over there. 10 O'clock". We saw a tiny speck of an object bobbing up and down the ocean in the distant. There was also sea spray accompanied the object to suggest it's the breath from the whale's blowholes. We held our breath, our eyes transfixed on this much anticipated appearance. As it got closer, it looked more and more like a speed boat skipping on the surface of the sea.

Another passenger pointed, we all looked into her direction, it turned out to be nothing but waves. All these flickering, glimmering glares play tricks on our eyes. These happened a few times before the passengers stop crying wolf - I mean whale.

As we got further and further from the harbour, we finally spotted them. It was in the distant, and no doubt about it. Our captain went after the whale like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. Of course, not for the purpose of shooting it with harpoons, but shooting it with cameras.

People who have looked at photos of those showy, majestic whales that leap straight up into air in a dramatic poses and expect to see it in a cruise would be disappointed. Those dramatic photos were taken by people who are either extremely lucky, or more likely somebody who been to these whale watching cruises repeatedly. It's also probably that the amazing photos were captured by the cruise staff, who happens to be a shutterbug. Lower your expectation, you will be disappointed less.


Tail of a whale
Tail of a whale

For the average whale watching fan like me, expect to only see the vanishing tails of the whales most of the time. It's more accurately be called tail-watching cruise. Who know? You might get lucky in your next cruise.


Pair of whales migrating north, Sydney
Pair of whales migrating north, Sydney
Quite often, the whale couple swim together. It's always nice to have company while on the road, or sea lane.

The breath left behind is the whale's watery graffiti
that says "I was here a second ago"

But all is not lost. Even if you miss the full body of whales, there're plenty to see while the cruise takes you from the wharf out to the sea, especially if you're a tourist to Sydney. Sydney Harbour is one of the 5 most beautiful city ports in the world (the other 4 being HK Harbour, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and Cape Town. Haven't been to the last 2 cities).

Despite catching only glimpses of the whale, some people will tell you they have a whale of a time (well, I have to put this in. I've no choice).




Ah yes, to wear scarf and beanie in the city at 18 °C may seem over the top, but a very good idea out in the open sea watching whales from the deck. My hands were so cold, I have difficulty pressing my camera's buttons. This adds another challenge to photographing whales.



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