A freelance writer and bargain hunter with wanderlust, recently moved to Perth from Brisbane.
Published October 5th 2015
A Whale of a Time with Whale Watch Western Australia
There is something alluring about the grace of an enormous whale in its natural habitat; to be in the presence of a magnificent creature that makes you feel small and insignificant in comparison. As someone who has never seen a whale in close proximity, watching the gentle giants at play has been a part of my bucket list for a while now and I knew that an enjoyable whale watching experience is highly dependent on a comfortable vessel, an experienced and friendly crew as well as favourable weather conditions.
Whale Watch Western Australia definitely delivered and set itself above its competitors in terms of its luxurious vessel, the Steep Point which is large enough to fit 72 guests. While I walked towards the boat parked at the sheltered waters at Spinnaker Drive in Geographe Bay, I noticed that Steep Point dwarfed the other vessels on the marina with its 25m x 7m viewing deck areas as well as a 360 degree view from the clear glass windows from inside the vessel.
I was also surprised at how spacious and comfortable the seats were; both inside and outside. The inside cabins have internal lounge areas which can be closed off to keep little kids safe as they roam around the cabin and a large flat mounted flat screen television. This 45 tonne vessel which I learnt weighed the same as a whale, is definitely the right choice if the ocean is a little bit choppy especially if you suffer from sea sickness. I learnt this firsthand as there were some ocean swells during my tour, providing a bonus adventurous element akin to being on a roller coaster. I welcomed the excitement; however I was aware that if I was on a less comfortable and smaller vessel, the fine line between exhilaration and discomfort would be crossed.
From the website to the booking process to the initial greeting, Whale Watch Western Australia had such a professional approach that I was surprised to discover that this is actually a small, family-run business. We were greeted warmly by the crew members who were dressed in smart suits – Leanne, Gemma and Jade as well as Drew who gave a captain's introduction and greeting when we were on the vessel. Gemma and Jade are incredibly multi-skilled for two girls so young, helping out with the initial contact, checking in, beverages, whale watching commentary, photos and general crew tasks – all with big, friendly smiles. Not to mention their talent in spotting the whales from far away, way before they even registered on the guests' radar.
Gemma and Jade – friendly crew
All throughout the tour, Leanne came round to chat with all the guests, imparting her knowledge on the whales and sharing anecdotes about her experiences, the company and her family. I was very impressed with the personable approach, being used to large boats just leaving you to your own devices. The crew members went to great lengths to ensure we were comfortable preferring to cancel tours if the weather was not favourable instead of chancing an unpleasant journey.
The family are veterans on the ocean, as Drew (the Captain), started out as a Pearl Diver and now has 45 years in the marine industry. They have moved around Australia a bit with a Penguin Tour in Melbourne and Whale Watching Tour in Gold Coast.
Despite the great service and creature comforts, the sight of the gentle giants was definitely the highlight of the tour. We were lucky enough to come across a few playful whales breaching in the distance, some chasing one another. It took a lot of concentration scanning the horizon for the sign of a tail or a whale spouting but the moment you glimpse one, it was all worth it. We were treated to whales jumping out of the water on two separate occasions, drawing a gasp from the crowd.
The whales with one of their tricks
While watching the whales at play, I had to remind myself that these were wild creatures – that they weren't putting on a show for us and that we were privileged to be able to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants. According to Leanne, they sometimes have customers coming back on the tour three times as each experience is different. "There are days when the whales come right up to the boat and there are others when you watch them from different angles," she says. As the company has an Australia Tourism Council Accreditation, Whale Watch Western Australia is dedicated to developing a longstanding relationship with the whales.
A whale gliding by
If you would like to be spoilt for a special occasion, Whale Watch Western Australia also has a VIP Captains Lounge option available with a panoramic view from the command centre and luxurious seating. The VIP Captains Lounge fits up to 30 people and you are treated with complimentary local wines, beers, soft drink, juice tea and coffee throughout the tour.
There has only been two occasions this season where they were no whale sightings, however Whale Watch Western Australia is so confident that you will get a whale sighting that they provide a return ticket if your tour fails to sight a whale from June to October. Whale Watch Western Australia runs 2 hour tours from Flinders Bay in Augusta from June to August (departing 10 am or 2pm) and from Geographe Bay in Busselton from September to November. For more information, contact them on whalewatchwesternaustralia.com or 1300 388 893 or email email@example.com. Whale watching tours start from $50 for children and $80 for adults.
During the summer season, the vessel is available in Perth to charter for all different occasions (weddings, corporate functions, birthdays etc.) and operates from Nov 2015 - May 2016. A few destinations for their cruises are Rottnest Island, Carnac Island and the Swan River. Visit their website on perthvipcruises.com for more information.
That would have been fantastic. My husband and I went on a whale watching crusie years agon when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii but unfortunately all we found that day were dolphins. We had hoped to see some at Hervey Bay in Queensland but it was too early for them when we were there this year. It's definitely still on our bucket list.