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Published July 16th 2022
A marine based "bucket-list" experience in Eyre Peninsula
What is the best thing in winter for you in Australia? Whales coming to our shore and nurturing their calves before they head back to Antarctica is top on my list. It's an annual affair that warms so many hearts of wildlife lovers. I know of someone living in Goolwa who drives to different beaches in the area every day in the winter months to find them. Whenever there is a sighting of whales in Encounter Bay area on the weekend, thousands of people will flock down south to catch a glimpse of the biggest mammals in the world. The love of whale watching is contagious. However, when you watch them from the shore is totally different from visiting them in their home.
Joining a cruise to watch whales offers a completely different experience. It has always been on my bucket list and I was so excited that I have finally made it to the best location for a whale-watching cruise – Fowlers Bay. Why is it the best? Because it is one of the largest Southern Right Whale nurseries in South Australia, 2nd only to Head of Bight. According to EP Cruises, their best record of daily whale sightings was 67 whales including 27 calves in 2018. Can you imagine there are more whales than humans in the same spot?
EP Cruises run its whale watching tour from a 50ft boat.
The EP Cruise Whale Watching Tour begins at Fowlers Bay jetty. We all assemble at the jetty and queue to get on to their 50ft boat. Once everyone is on board, Rod Keogh, our tour guide & boat operator, introduces himself & gives us some safety instructions. Then, we head off to where the whales are. The excitement slowly builds up when the boat stops at the first lot of whales. Rod gives us some descriptions of what we are seeing and then lets us watch and observe the whales ourselves. The first pair of whales is enjoying themselves in the water. However, there doesn't seem to be much movement. Every now and then, we see them blowing water into the air. A seal comes up to say hello and he gets quite close to the boat.
There are a few "wow" moments when we see a whale lifting the tales, another lifting its head & eyes above the surface and waving its pectoral fins. I find the calf trying to lift its back and land on its mum fascinating. Is it practising manoeuvring, to build up muscles or just being playful? Or all of the above?
The boat is spacious for us to move around. You can also head up to the upper deck when the boat stops to admire the whales from a different angle. Due to restrictions, our boat has to stop 300m from the whales. This is the closest I have ever been to any whale watching I have ever done onshore. The cruise lasts 2 and a half hours. It seems long but it's just the right amount of time for Rod to take us to different pairs of mother whales and calves before I get too seasick and head back to shore. Had it not been a rather windy day, I would have loved to sit and watch the whales sleep and breathe all afternoon.
Spy hopping allows us to have a glimpse of the whale head
A little more about our host Rod, who lives in Fowlers Bay and gets to run up and down the beach every morning to check out the waters as well as to spot his whale "families". He does have one of the best jobs in the world. Check out their Facebook page as they often go live and report on what's happening in Fowlers Bay. You can virtually travel to his world and have a taste of what they offer in their marine-based "bucket-list" experiences on the one most pristine coastlines of South Australia.
Rod runs up and down the beach every morning to spot his whale "families".