Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published June 11th 2013
have a whale of a time
It's winter in Adelaide and apart from it being cold, wet and windy it's also whale watching season. This is the time of year that the Southern Right whales come to our shores from the sub-Antarctic to give birth and raise their young.
From May to October the whales arrive, much to the delight of the thousands who travel to the southern coast to watch and wait on the beaches and cliff tops with their cameras and binoculars. It is estimated that up to 400,000 people travel to Victor Harbor each winter just to catch a glimpse of these wonderful marine mammals.
The whale's arrivals are announced on the SA Whale Centre's website and Facebook page. They also have a whale hotline - 1900 WHALES (1900 942 537 or 8551 0752). Information is updated as sightings are reported, so if you're heading down to Victor, the latest sightings and maps will help you find the best spots to view the whales. Viewing platforms are dotted along the coast - check the free whale information viewing guide; available from the Whale Centre.
Victor Harbor, the whale watching centre, is on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, only an hour's drive from Adelaide.
These beautiful and gentle giants have returned to our coastline as a sign of trust that we will not harm them. The Southern Right was so named because it was deemed to be the "right" whale to hunt. It produced lots of oil, swam slowly and floated when it was killed. After being hunted to near extinction, they are now on Australia's list of endangered species along with the worlds rarest sea lion, the Australian Sea Lion and Little Penguin - all of which can be seen at Victor Harbor and Granite Island.
I can highly recommend a tour on the Big Duck Boat Tours that operate from the causeway that joins Victor Harbor to Granite Island. You'll be motored to the best viewing locations by an expert boat driver. A sighting is never guaranteed, but the operators of the Big Duck know the seas, know the rules and are fully licenced for whale watching and are insured. Spray jackets and life jackets are provided and up to 10 people can go on each tour. The boat is a 7.3metre ex-Navy rigid inflatable boat and sits in the water smoothly. When I went for the full tour in the middle of August, there was not a sign of queasiness or sea-sickness. The tour takes you to places not normally accessible to visitors to the area. Wildlife was abundant and it was a thrill to see the endangered Australian Sea Lion, which only breeds on the south and west coasts of Australia, in it's natural habitat.
I thought the tour prices were good value:
Prices start from $35 Adults, $25 Kids (under 12), $110 Family (2 Adults, 2 Kids)
If you have a boat and want to do some whale watching from the sea, please be aware of the very strict guidelines that go with whale watching:
Personal watercraft (such as jet skis) must keep a distance of 300 metres from any marine mammal (whales, dolphins, seals etc) and are prohibited from launching in the Victor Harbor restriction area during whale season.
Vessels within the Encounter Bay restricted area must not get within 300 metres of a whale.
Boats must keep a distance of 100 metres from a whale and 50 metres from other marine mammals (dolphins, seals etc).
If a whale is showing signs of distress or has a calf, vessels must not get closer than 300 metres.
While you're in Victor, pop over to Granite Island and visit the Penguin Centre. The Little Penguins in the sanctuary are lovingly cared for by volunteers. The centre is a terrific spot to have a close up look at the beautiful little birds and to see the very rewarding results of the volunteer's rescue operations.