Humpback Whales in Moreton Bay

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My shot of a humpback whale calf doing a breach with Moreton Island in the background

I am currently in Brisbane in South Queensland and this is one of if not the best spot in Australia to go whale watching! The main reason for this is Moreton Bay; each year the southern humpback whales migrate to and from Antarctica and the whales seem to love Moreton Bay. They don’t just pass through in their migration they feed, mate and play in the crystal clear and clean sea of Moreton Bay. Another reason is actually that there are only two whale watching boats allowed in Moreton Bay and they run at different times of the day so when you find a pot of whales the boat can stay with them as long as possible, there are no other boats to consider – you got it all for yourself. This is brilliant since humpback whales are the most surface active whales and are naturally curious so often they will come close to the boat to check you out!

Brisbane Whale Watching is one of the two whale watching boats and this is the second time I’ve been on their custom built Eye-Spy catamaran and it’s a fantastic experience. I’ve written a blog post about this before, click here to read it, here’s what we saw this time.

One hour out of Redcliffe (about 30 mins. from Brisbane) we spot the first pot (a group of whales that travel together is called a pot) of whales and quickly spot pot 2 and 3 – there are whales all around us! They’re unfortunately not that interested in us and travel fast so after trying to keep pace with them we turn South to travel with the wind (making it a bit more comfortable for those passengers without sea legs) and look for other pots. It takes a while but suddenly we discover a mother and her very young baby calf playing just off the coast of Moreton Island! The calf is doing big breaches and tail slaps and it’s such a thrill to witness these large and graceful mammals; these gentle giants playing and it is a very humbling and inspiring experience (how some countries can still allow commercial whaling is beyond me – stop it now please!)

Now photographing these giants is an event all in itself. It is incredibly hard. They breach the surface with no warning and you have to be faster than Lucky Luke to draw your camera and shoot away and get a shot – with one hand! You’re holding on to the railing with your other hand ‘cos the boat is getting kicked around by short ‘n hard choppy waves that makes you feel like you’re riding a huge rodeo horse. And spend too much time looking through the viewfinder and you will definitely get motion sickness (you have to shoot with both eyes open)! It’s extremely fun and challenging (and NOT for people who get seasick!) On the top deck of the catamaran with a 360 degree view of the ocean it hits you that the ocean is rather large and the chances of a big humpback doing a big breach near the boat in the direction I am presently looking AND me reacting fast enough to shoot it AND actually getting the whale in the viewfinder AND getting the shot in focus etc – are very small to say the least! Wildlife photography is the ultimate patience tester I reckon. I managed some shots I am happy with, some a bit out of focus but even the USM focus in my L lenses had trouble keeping up! Here’s a few, more on my gallery:

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Humpback mother whale with calf doing a breach

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Humpback calf doing a big breach

It is so much fun and seeing humpback whales in their environment is such a phenomenal experience (and not an easy thing to experience living in Copenhagen) I may very well end up going again while I’m here in Brisbane!

PS. This really is not for people who get seasick. The sea was fairly rough and the catamaran gets kicked around a lot by the waves and a less fun part of working on the boat is cleaning up after people who involuntarily say hello again to their breakfast! You can just picture the job interview “So you’d love to work on our boat you say. Well, how do you feel about ehhhh…vomit?” I don’t get seasick, but eat a pill just in case – it’s extremely easy to induce motion sickness when you look through a camera viewfinder while you’re moving – try it if ya like, look through a viewfinder or a pair of binoculars and spin around a bit and look up and down at the same time – there ya’ go, instant motion sickness 😀


  • This weekend is the biggest of the year in Australian sports! Saturday it’s the AFL (Australian Football) grand final between Port Adelaide and Geelong and Sunday it’s the Rugby League grand final between The Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles. It doesn’t get any bigger than this, Australians love sports (so do I) so every pub will be packed and streets will be deserted! Both AFL and Rugby League are great action packed sports so I’m going to find the pub with the biggest screen and get some beers and join in the fun!
  • The Danish TV show “Rejseholdet” is shown on channel SBS down here, it’s called “Unit One”. I was channel surfing and landed on SBS, after a while I noticed that the actors looked familiar. Then I started listening, what is that? Then it hit me, they’re speaking Danish, that’s “Rejseholdet”. I haven’t heard or spoken one word of Danish since I left so it took a few secs to register. As some will know I happen to talk to myself on occasion or talk to my computer (don’t worry I don’t get into arguments with myself…now the computer is another story) but I always do that in English anyway!

Quote of the day (in Danish for a change):

“Lacour du tager gerningsstedet, Fischer afhører naboerne”

– in honour of “Rejseholdet” or “Unit One” as it’s known here.

3 Comments on “Humpback Whales in Moreton Bay”

  1. I am spending a long weekend on North Stradbroke Island in a few weeks, and your pictures have me super excited! I hope to see some whales and soak in the sights of the beautiful landscape in the area!!

  2. Thanks for your comment, I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time on Straddy and there are lots of whales at the moment in Moreton Bay so if you're going whale watching you should see quite a few!

  3. Rugby League or Rugby Union? Which is better?
    Personally I think Rugby League out classes union by far, though being a Wakefield Wildcats fan makes me a little biased! However I do admit that internationally Rugby League needs some work so Rugby Union has that on its side but what about the game itself?
    It seems that Rugby Union is just a collection of dog piles most of the time followed by short lived runs which either involve running straight into the other teams players or scoring the odd try, WHY!?
    In Rugby League I can see the point in running straight into your opponent as you have to make some ground only having six tackles to do it but in Union, it’s just a way of losing the ball! Fools!
    I mean I like doing a little Rugby Spread Betting every other week but when it comes to Rugby Union, its just boring! KICK! THERE INFRONT! KICK! THERE BEHIND!! KICK THERE INFRONT AGAIN!!! OH NO WAIT!! THERE BEHIND AGAIN! RUN THE DAMN BALL!!!!
    Anyway I’ll stop my rant here and give someone else a chance to say what they think!

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