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Whale Watching with Getaway Sailing

Home > Brisbane > School Holiday Activities | Romantic | Outdoor | Escape the City | Day Trips
by Geraldine Massey (subscribe)
I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
Published July 15th 2014
You've never seen whales like this before
What constitutes the perfect day? One worth bottling, to be uncorked at some low point in the future when you're sadly in need of a pick-me-up. I have to confess that, unlike many people, up until a few days ago my imagined perfect day would not have included whales. The sea? Definitely. Sunshine? Mandatory. Sailing? Yes please. Whales wouldn't have been on my list of essentials. But a whale watching trip with Getaway Sailing now gets my vote as a day of unrivalled perfection, and one of the Gold Coast's best kept secrets is out.

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It was a crisp, clear, magical winter's morning when we met former commercial pilot Darryl Franklin at the Runaway Bay Marina and boarded his 11 metre French-built luxury sailing sloop, Eau De Vie (water of life), for our whale watching adventure. We putted out into the Broadwater past the man-made Wave Break Island and some fishing trawlers returning with their night's catch through the Gold Coast Seaway. As the towering Gold Coast skyline receded behind us it was sails up on a sea of sparkling silver. Our destination? Anywhere we might find those splendid cetaceans; the water was our playground as well as theirs.

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Whales in a sea of silver.

Darryl swapped his busy, high-flying life a few years ago for fair winds and a life on the water and now plies the Gold Coast waters with a range of sailing charters for land lubbers and sea dogs alike. Of course, since the Gold Coast is the epicentre of the Australian East Coast's 'Humpback Highway', his delightful and unique whale watching packages are popular from June through to November.

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Images provided by Getaway Sailing

As we headed off in search of whales Darryl gave us the benefit of his detailed local whale knowledge. Did you know, for example, that the Gold Coast's whale watching parade begins in late May with juveniles that are then followed by single adult females, then larger numbers of adult males from June, and then pregnant females? Or that the Gold Coast is unique amongst East Coast whale watching venues because you can see the crossover of fast-moving, north-travelling whales with their relaxed, well-fed south-bound friends in August? Or that when whales sleep they actually shut down half of their brains?

We spotted a school of dolphins first and then settled in, half scanning the horizon for whales and half watching Darryl skilfully work the yacht. When a cloud of soaring spray made it clear that there was some whale action in the distance we headed towards the spot with excitement mounting.

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It's always a pleasure to watch an expert at work.


Our first whale encounter was with a pod of three whales. While spotting them was not for me the kind of spiritual experience described by some people, it was a real delight to see them only about 100 metres from the yacht, rising to take a breath. I was interested to find that the members of the pod usually surface together and that they don't travel in a straight, predictable line. Emerging from a few minutes of 'down time' they had moved a long way off in a different direction. It was fascinating.

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Our next sighting was of a pod of five whales, that grew to seven as we sailed alongside them for about forty five minutes, watching their graceful, sinuous movement through the water. We had fun trying to predict where and when they would surface next, which was quite difficult because these were whales on a mission to get to their breeding grounds as quickly as possible; they were really moving. At one point they were as close as fifty metres from the yacht.

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They headed towards the yacht and then dived deep, emerging way on the other side, then they sped off, leaving us with a spectacular whale salute - five of these incredible creatures blowing simultaneously.

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A whale salute


While this was not a bumper day for whale sightings and the ones we did see didn't put on one of those spectacular shows you sometimes see on the evening news, it didn't matter at all. It was still a truly magical, 5 star experience.

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The benefits of Getaway Sailing's whale watching are many:

• What you do see is up close and very personal. While there are obvious advantages in being able to see whales from a bird's eye view (the kind of experience you can have with one of the Gold Coast's larger whale watching operators), on a yacht you're right down at the whale's level. I imagine that you could be eyeballing a curious whale in the right circumstances.

• There are no crowds. You won't be sharing this experience with more than one hundred other noisy and excited people. There'll just be Darryl (the perfect host) and your own personal group of family or friends - up to a maximum of 6 people.

• You can be out on the water for 6 to 7 hours, up to twice as long as other whale watching tours.

• You can BYO your food and drinks - no extra expenses.

• This is as much about the whole sailing experience as it is about whale watching. There's just you, the ocean, the silence, the whales, and the rhythmic action of the waves and the boat. Bliss. Darryl has even thoughtfully supplied a double bean bag that sits at the bow of the boat. I can vouch for the fact that this is the perfect spot to relax and let the everyday world become a distant memory.



Getaway Sailing's whale watching aboard the beautiful, teak-decked Eau De Vie is available for $150 per person with a minimum charge of $600 per charter. I think this is incredible value for a minimum five hour cruise in ocean conditions. You need to bring a hat, sunscreen, warm clothing, sunglasses and a camera, as well as your own food and drink. And don't forget your sense of wonder and adventure.

You can view some of Darryl's footage from previous whale watching trips in the video below and on Getaway Sailing's You Tube Channel.



Getaway Sailing also offers a range of other sailing packages including trips to South Stradbroke Island and the Day Spa / Sailing package which combines pampering at the Getaway Day Spa on beautiful Tamborine Mountain with an afternoon Gold Coast sailing cruise.

* Geraldine was a guest of Gold Coast Tourism and Getaway Sailing *
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Why? For a day of unrivalled perfection.
When: Whale watching from June through to November.
Phone: 0438 453 769
Where: Whale Watching cruises depart from Gate D, Runaway Bay Marina, 247 Bayview St Runaway Bay
Cost: $150 per person.
Your Comment
beautiful Geraldine! I love the picture of you looking out into the ocean.
by Louise Massey (score: 1|15) 957 days ago
It must be a spectacular sight, as they come up from the water.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11068) 956 days ago
I would love to see some whales up close like that sometime. Those are some amazing photos Geraldine, thank you for sharing.
by Lucy H (score: 3|1125) 955 days ago
Wow that would have been amazing Geraldine. I loved your article and photos.
by Angela Lindsay (score: 1|63) 953 days ago
I´m interested in sea animals. This is a great article about whales!
by unvrso (score: 1|89) 544 days ago
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