MOST whales are on a mission to Queensland when they pass through Bass Strait.
But guests on a cruise on Monday, July 3, were lucky enough to have a humpback whale swim so close to them that operators had to stay put for 40 minutes.
Fearing they would injure the animal, operators of the Wildlife Coast Cruises’ ship cut off the engine when the whale came within 100m of the ship.
“They’re usually going from the cold water in Antarctica to the warmer water in Queensland when they come past,” Wildlife Coast Cruises’ photographer Renee de Bondt said.
“The whales seem to be getting more comfortable, I think a lot of the older whales have bad memories from hunting and the younger ones don’t.”
A permit allows the cruise ship to approach a whale, providing it doesn’t come within 100m of it.
“But the whale can approach us as close as it wants and this one wanted to people-watch.”
Although Renee missed the spectacle as it was her day off, she described it as a “once in a lifetime” experience for people on the cruise.
“I’m shattered I missed it, but we’ve had some great encounters. We are very lucky.”
Marine biologist Mika Peaches said younger whales have been behaving slightly differently in the area.
“It’s common for whales to relax when they meet their destination up the coast, but there are a lot more younger ones in the population now and they’re naturally curious,” she said.
“We’re seeing a variety of whales and they have different behaviours.
“Last Saturday we saw two whales just playing with each other in the water.”
She said there have been 167 recorded whale sightings in the area so far this year. In 2015, there were 152 sightings.