Kingfisher Bay Resort - Fraser Island Accommodation

Hervey Bay Whale Watching 2.0 – It’s A Wild And Wet Swim!

Up closer encounters are now a reality in the calm waters off Fraser Island Up closer encounters are now a reality in the calm waters off Fraser Island © Hervey Bay Whale Watch

FRASER ISLAND: Hervey Bay Whale Watching has been taken to the next level with the release of Whale Watching 2.0… an immersive experience where watchers can slip over the sides of the boat and swim with the Humpback Whales in calm protective waters.  

Skipper Brian Perry, who pioneered Humpback Whale watching in Hervey Bay some 28 years ago, said this new swimming experience would take place under very controlled conditions and that the elements - calm waters, good visibility and whales that are inquisitive (which locals call a mugging) but not surface active with breaches and tail slaps - had to align for it to take place.

“Hervey Bay is the most important habitat in the world for migrating Humpback Whales,” he said. “We’re not whale watching in open ocean, but in the protected waters of the Great Sandy Strait on the lee side of Fraser Island - but you still have to have the right combination of weather and good-natured Humpbacks to swim with them.”

Skipper Brian says there was an air of excitement for the inaugural swim, which took place on the second weekend in August.

“The first pod we saw were breaching and showing off and the second were clearly on the move and not interested in us. By the time we encountered a third pod, which were super inquisitive, we knew we had the right conditions so we switched off the motors,” he said. “The swimmers sat on the duck board with their feet dangling in the water and the rest of the whale watchers lined the decks waving and yelling… and we waited for the Humpbacks to come to us.”

And come they did.

Two four-year-old Humpbacks swam around the boat coming closer with each arc. Quick Cat’s deckie and swim host, Tracey Magyar, slipped into the water and one by one the guests joined her on a rope tethered off the back of the boat.

On their fourth circuit, the curious humpbacks dived and swam directly under the swimmers.

Pharmacist Jarred Smith was one of the very first to dip his toe, if you’ll pardon the pun, in the calm waters and is already talking about repeating the experience during the season.

“When I heard the trial had been given the go ahead, I contacted Brian and Jill Perry and said sign me up, I’m good to go.”

Jarred and his wife and friends were in the water for around 40 minutes and were so close they could make eye contact with giant eyes, see the remora fish feeding on the skin and see the minute details on the barnacles.

“It was the most incredible thing to be in the water and to have these two curious whales circling and then slowly coming up below us from the depths,” he said. “They were the same length as six of us put together, but so incredibly graceful and so incredibly inquisitive.”

Whilst the swimmers didn’t hear the whales sing – like their fellow whale watchers who stayed aboard Quick Cat II and watched the excitement from their deck – there were plenty of in-human noises through their snorkels as they expressed their excitement during the encounter.

““If you’ve never heard snorkelers yell with excitement through their snorkel, well that’s a sound to behold,” says Skipper Perry. “Even our deckie, Tracey, was so overcome by the experience that she accidentally took 50 selfies on her GoPro instead of videoing the event.”

Fellow Hervey Bay pharmacist and seasoned scuba diver, Darren Nicholls, who has previously dived with Grey Nurse Sharks at Queensland’s Wolf Rock and with Manta Rays at Lady Elliot Island, reckons his 14-year-old son played it a little bit cooler than he in the water.

“You can’t pre-package nature – it doesn’t work to a human timetable – but we were curious and excited to see how they’d interact with us,” he said. “We weren’t disappointed. There was action above the water and below the water and they swam side on and gazed at us straight in the eye.”

“It’s not like bird watching, they actually wanted to come and say hello,” he said.

Mr Nicholls says the experience gave him the same sort of thrill as when he went whale watching in Hervey Bay for the very first time.

“It’s just so more immediate and it’s a real privilege… although the whales were probably thinking what are these silly humans doing?” he laughed.

Skipper Brian and the Quick Cat II (Hervey Bay Whale Watch) leave Fraser Island daily during the season, which runs from 1 August until 31 October and costs $110 for adults and $70 for children aged 4-14. The new swimming with the Humpback experience costs an extra $75pp (on top of the cruise ticket price) and can only be booked on the boat on the day.*

Longer stay, accommodated packages at Kingfisher Bay Resort start from just $379 per person and include two nights hotel accommodation on Fraser Island's western side with a BONUS third night free, hot buffet breakfast daily, return passenger ferry transfers ex River Heads and a half-day whale watch cruise with Captain Brian.

For more information visit www.kingfisherbay.com or 1800 072 55. You call also follow the Humpback action on https://www.facebook.com/fraserislandwhalewatch.

*More About The Swimming Experience
Hervey Bay Whale Watch operators are working with Queensland Parks and Wildlife to ensure the experience is safe and respectful for humpbacks and humans. Due to the nature of the immersion experience and the various external factors that need to align, Hervey Bay’s Swimming with the Humpbacks can only be booked on the boat on the day (it cannot be pre-booked as part of a package) and costs $75pp. Guests who wish to try the swim, are encouraged to take their swim wear, a towel and warm clothes with them on the day they whale watch.

Getting There
Fraser Island is just offshore from Hervey Bay on Australia’s east coast and Kingfisher Bay Resort passenger and vehicle ferry services depart daily from River Heads (secure parking is available). Virgin Australia and QantasLink provide direct flights to Hervey Bay/Fraser Coast (the resort operates airport connections).

More About The Resort
Kingfisher Bay Resort - on World Heritage Listed Fraser Island – includes 109 self-contained two and three-bedroomed villas; Kingfisher holiday houses for bigger groups; the 152-room Mercure Kingfisher Bay Resort – Fraser Island hotel; as well as touring and marine businesses.

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