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The best tips for your whale watching success

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Wild About Whales
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Marine mammals
Humpback whale breaching

So you want to see some whales? Whale watching is something most people have done, or want to do at some point in their lives. And is there any wonder? Seeing a whale up close from the shore can be an amazing and sometimes life changing experience.

Take it from me. I’m Geoff Ross, NSW National Parks Coordinator of Marine Fauna Programs. And having enjoyed whale watching in NSW for over 20 years, I can honestly say it’s always thrilling to see these magnificent marine mammals enjoy their aquatic playground.

So from me to you, here are my best tips to ensure your whale watching success:

1. Check the whale sightings map on the Wild About Whales website

This is the best way for you to discover where whales are currently being seen.

2. Great views

NSW has over 860 national parks, from Byron Bay in the north to Eden on the south coast. Many provide excellent viewing opportunites for whale watching. Wild About Whales provides details about the parks and facilities offered - so check out the top spots

3. Get 'Appy

Any avid whale watcher needs to download the Wild About Whales mobile app pronto! It includes a detailed whale watching guide and you can also submit your own whale sightings.

4. Check the forecast and pack the essentials

Some of the best vantage points are along the coastal tracks and cliff tops of NSW national parks. The reality is, these spots can often be rugged and windy, so wear warm protective clothing and sturdy shoes. I recommend you pack binoculars and your camera/phone – you never know how close the whales will come to the coast.

Don’t forget food and drink – I always love to take a thermos flask of hot chocolate with me. And if you’re in it for the long haul, take a chair along for comfort. Remember to take all rubbish away with you and leave our national parks just as you find them.

5. Know your species

The iconic humpback whales and southern right whales are the most common species you’ll see. It’s also possible you may see minke, blue, sperm and orcas (killer wales) among others. Brushing up on your whale identification can make all the difference and the Wild About Whales app can help here too.

6. Recognise typical whale behaviour

Part of the fun is working out what our whales are trying to tell us or each other. The acrobatics are awesome to watch and usually mean the whale is trying to message other animals. Discover what breaching, tail slapping, spy-hopping and blowing mean - it may help you understand what’s going on below the surface.

7. Spy other wildlife

Dolphin sightings are more prevalent at this time of year, especially in Port Stephens. You may also spot seals from various coastal locations. Gannets, albatross and other seabirds can be seen from coastal vantages, and keep an eye out for forest birds. Honey eaters and wrens are commonly seen in the flowering heathlands; the coastal banksias are particularly beautiful at this time of year and provide a rich food source for honeyeaters.

8. Share the experience and get involved

Share your experience on the Wild About Whales Facebook page. If you want to get more involved personally, you can volunteer as a ‘whale counter’ to track the numbers and species spotted for this season, or take part in our Discovery tours

9. Choose the right time

Generally whales head north throughout May, June and July each year, and return southwards from September to November. If you really want to see the whales passing, visit our NSW national parks from May to November. There's no 'best time of day' so get comfortable and be patient.

10. Appreciate the beauty

Whales are special and to be respected. They were pushed to the verge of extinction and have rebounded tremendously in our waters as a result of their protected status. They really are ‘our whales’. They’re coming home after feeding in the southern oceans and we’re privileged to be able to see them daily from some of the most scenic spots within our NSW national parks.

Geoff Ross
Coordinator of Marine Fauna Programs
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

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