Peninsula Whale Sightings – Harnessing the Fluke of the Fluke
Whether you’re a first timer, or a seasoned chaser, that moment you see the whale’s fluke rise up high and the white water spray that spews into the air as it crashes down, you’ll tell yourself, that ain’t just any fluke.
Keen to see these mythical whales with your own eyes as they pass by the Mornington Peninsula coast and Phillip Island waters of Bass Strait in Victoria? Then follow on below for a few tips and tricks that will help you harness the flukes, without it being a total fluke.
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Where Are The Whales?
Witnessing for yourself the majesty, power and beauty of a whale as it swims across the ocean, you feel it in your chest, no matter if they’re way off in the distance or they’re so close you can smell their breath wafting through the air.
I’ve grown to adore the seemingly flukey moments when, on a whim, or was it some sort of inner whale song calling, that I’ve ventured to one of my favourite local lookouts and lo and behold either immediately upon arrival a spout appears in the distance, or the unmistakeable white underbelly or underside of the tail or fluke presents itself in an arc as I train my eyes on the vast Southern Ocean. In my mind it’s happened far too consistently and too often to be a random encounter. So here you go, this is my little piece of tips and insights for you!
There are several types of whales moving through the coastal Victorian waters of Bass Strait and along the Great Ocean Road, Bellarine Peninsula, Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island, Wilson’s Promontory and Gippsland.
The most likely sightings will be of Humpback Whales, followed by Southern Right Whales, and then very fortunate sightings of Orca (Killer Whales) and other less frequent sightings of Blue Whales and Sperm Whales, amongst other Baleen (Mysticeti) and Toothed (Odontoceti) whales [Full list of whale species found in Australian waters].
But where are they?
Tour Booking Options
Phillip Island VIC
Wilson’s Promontory VIC
Or more importantly, when are they?
The core migration period for Humpbacks and Southern Rights is generally during May to October, though sightings can appear for pretty much the whole year.
These days it’s presumed there’s around 3-5000 whales that pass through our Victorian waters, however whilst the word thousands appears large, this is only a small percentage of the potentially 50-60,000 that may have frequented the region before the whaling industry of the 1820’s – 1850’s decimated the population.
According to records [Further Reading 5.], some 26,000 Right Whales, 40,000 Humpbacks and 16,000 Sperm Whales were taken in Australian and New Zealand waters during commercial whaling activities, all for the sourcing of whale oil, which prior to the advent of petroleum was traded and used for street lamp lighting and as a lubricant for machinery. It’s even hard to believe that the last whaling station in Australia closed as recently as July 1978, which seems incredibly recent, or at least even a familiar lifetime ago.
So when can they be seen?
The most successful times of day for sightings that I’ve recorded are late morning and late afternoon.
On the calm sea days the whales can take a rest, slowing their travels to pause and rest and this is when you may view the incredible spectacular of breaches, tail-slapping and general acrobatics.
On the rough days, even in the late afternoon sunset, I’ve observed trios and quartets of whales absolutely motoring across the horizon, their spout trails continuing in regular harmony to the crashes of waves and suspended fetch barely lit by the descending sun.
How can the Whales be seen?
The best place to see whales with your own eyes and under your own power is along the Mornington Peninsula and from Phillip Island is from the highest viewing areas along the coast.
Typically through late Autumn and Winter the whales are travelling in the direction from West to East, so if you begin your morning whale trek at Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula, then you might continue to migrate with them West through the day, observiing them from Sorrento and then as far as Cape Schanck, before you run out of roads and daylight.
The easiest places to get to by car or foot are the following (Google Map links embedded):
Along the way, you’ll no doubt encounter some other regular whale-spotters along the route. Here’s a couple of folks to look out for and to say a friendly hello to on your travels:
To make the best of your whale spotting from these locations, grab a pair of binoculars before you go and you’ll feel like you’re right there next to them, without the boat ride!
Can Someone Show Me The Whales?
If you’re seeking more of a semi-guaranteed and up close and personal view of a whale, then you’re in luck! A guided boat tour is your best bet for seeing the whales whilst cruising in the areas that they’re known to frequent. I’d still grab those binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens though!
My top picks for whale sightseeing tours in Victoria are:
I want to Book a Tour Now!
Book your Phillip Island or Wilson’s Prom Whale Watching Boat Tour right now, the buttons below will take you straight there to the booking calendar window. Or scroll down to see your tour options displayed right here.
Keen to continue your study and insights into local whale life? Here’s a smattering of useful links for you:
- Syme, Marten (2016), Maritime Museums of Victoria (MMV) Conference papers of sealing and whaling in Bass Strait (PDF Weblink)
- Mills, J.A. (2016), The Contribution Of The Whaling Industry To The Economic Development Of The
Australian Colonies: 1770-1850 (PDF Weblink)
- Australian Whaling History – Whales on the Net
- National Museum of Australia – Start of Whaling
- History of Whaling in Australia – Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, The Environment and Water