Whale Watching is one of those things everyone needs to do at least once in their life. We were lucky enough over the school holidays to go Whale Watching and Dolphin Feeding at Moreton Island’s Tangalooma Island Resort. Seeing both of these amazing creatures in their natural environment is an experience we will never forget. Our great day out at Tangalooma Island Resort included a whale watching cruise, taking advantage of the resorts beautiful location and great facilities, and topping it off with wild dolphin feeding.
The Day started at Pinkenba in Brisbane where we boarded the ferry to travel across to Moreton Island and Tangalooma Island Resort. It was great cruising up the river towards Moreton Bay and the kids loved seeing the Port of Brisbane and all of the huge container ships and sights along the way. The cruise across the bay is a reasonably quick and cruising up towards Moreton Island over the clear aqua water with the sand hills growing in the distance as you approach is spectacular.
After arriving at the beautiful Tangalooma it was only a short wait until the Whale Cruise started. From Tangalooma we headed North up towards the tip of Moreton Island, had a light lunch on the way provided as part of the package, and began the lookout for pods of whales. The captain decided to cruise around to the spectacular eastern side of the island underneath the lighthouse and it was like we were in the middle of a highway for whales, except without the traffic jams!!
It didn’t take long to spot out first pod of whales and fortunately for us there was two males, a mum, and a beautiful new calf that would have only been days old. When the captain spotted the whales the boat turned towards them but did not approach any closer than 100 meters, there are very strict rules of engagement for boats to make sure the whales are given their space. Often the whales do approach the boats but that is a matter of chance. In our case they did venture close in to check us out as often the whales are just as interested in us as we are in them.
We carefully tracked along with the pod of whales for around 45 minutes and there was plenty of opportunities to see them play and roll alongside the boat, which also meant there were some great moments for those happy snaps. The whales would roll and show their bellies, wave their pectoral fins, splash their tails and generally show off to the adoring crowd on the boat. There was plenty of room on the boat’s multiple decks for everyone to get a great view of the beautiful creatures as they escorted us north.
Fairly soon a number of other pods of whales appeared in the distance, there was about six pods within sight of us on the day. One particularly interesting one was a group of large males that were coming up at good speed from behind. They knew there was female in the vicinity and were trying to strut their stuff. The funny thing was she wasn’t having any of it, and turned round with her calf to tell them to rack off. Which they did. Along the way the resort ranger Brendan gave a great commentary on what was happening with each of the pods and how they were behaving. It was truly fascinating.
To top off the Whale Watching cruise there was one more pod that was making its way towards the boat and one of the whales in that group was breaching continuously. Breaching is when the whales dive down and come back up leaping out of the water to splash back down on their bellies. It’s that classic picture you see all the time in the tourist brochures and it was certainly spectacular seeing it live. One of the whales was breaching every minute for about 15 minutes, so we got some good shots to bring home with us.
After about one and a half hours of watching these amazing Humpback Whales do their thing it was time for us to head back to Tangalooma. We couldn’t have had a better series of sightings than we did on that day. It was breathtaking.
We got back to Tangalooma at about 3.30 and the next thing on the list was the Kookaburra feeding and then the dolphins at dusk. While we waited there was plenty to keep us entertained. There are a few eateries and shops to buy refreshments or just chill out at, and then there is the beautiful Tangalooma beach to sit or play on and watch the sunset over the water to the west. Our family chose to hang out on the beach for the afternoon and the kids were spotting starfish in the water and drawing and playing on the sand for a good hour. There are plenty of other activities to do like quad biking, sand boarding or if it’s in your budget a helicopter ride around the island. It all depends on time I guess. Just before the dolphin feeding we went for a quick bite at The Beach Cafe, and then got changed into something we could get wet for going into the water with the dolphins.
Dusk had come at around 6pm and it was time to feed the dolphins. We met the staff of the resort next to the dock and could already see that some of our friends had arrived in the shallows ready for their fishy feed. There is up to 200 people every night that come down to feed the dolphins and everyone gets a turn. We found out from the presenter that the fish the dolphins get at the feeding are only about 10% of their daily intake of food with the rest caught in the wild. It is all a very smooth and safe process and the welfare of the dolphins is the foremost priority for the resort staff. I probably don’t need to tell you exactly how it all happens but we lined up on the beach, were taken into the shallows and adults and kids alike got to feed one of these beautiful creatures by hand. It was extraordinary being so close to them in their natural environment.
After such a great day it was time to jump on the ferry and cruise home back. With the awesome whale watching experience, the stunning surroundings of Moreton Island and Tangalooma Island Resort, and the wild dolphin feeding to top it off, this was a day that we and our kids will never forget, and all just a short trip across the water from Brisbane. Why wouldn’t you do it at least once?