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Blog: Whale tales

Paul Chai journeyed up the NSW coastline during the 2012 whale migrating season. Recount his trip.

Paddling out

Posted by: Paul Chai | 11 October 2012 | 0 comments
Cape Byron kayaking and dolphin watching

A morning kayak around Cape Byron sees the whales have to lift their game to compete with a hero in a half shell.

After following the world’s largest mammals along the New South Wales coast for a few months with some decent sightings I thought I had become a little blasé about communing with the wildlife in our amazing coastal and marine parks. But an early (for me) morning in kayaks with Cape Byron Kayaks snapped me out of any creeping apathy.

It wasn’t just the salty slap in the face the ocean gave me as myself, and Cape Byron Kayaks owner Alice, pushed our kayak out through the breaking waves, but my first sighting of a loggerhead turtle in the wild that did it.

Turtle exposure

Barely a few hundred metres off shore we had come to a kind of bobbing halt over a darker mass of water that Alice said was a feeding ground for turtles. As if hearing his name, the shiny bespeckled bonce of a loggerhead popped up above the choppy sea to check us out; he then took several looks and revealed his huge shell in an elegant dive much to the joy of the assembled flotilla of egg beaters. Once he disappeared we were given our paddling orders by Alice and crew and set off in the direction of Julian Rocks, the focal point, hot dive spot and pile of rocky rubble that sits about two kilometres off the beach.

Breaching for the stars

The sea telegraph had obviously been beating (or flowing?) because the whales were not going to be upstaged by a lone loggerhead, at least that’s how I explained the sudden and repeated breaching of a pair of humpbacks just near Julian Rocks as soon as we started out that way. Once, twice, three times, we lost count of how many times the whales launched themselves skyward partly because of how numerous it was and partly because we were heading into some decent waves that required more than passing attention so we didn’t capsize. Perhaps the humpback duo was just paying its respects to Nguthungulli, who the local Arakwal people believe sheltered in a cave on Julian Rocks after creating all the land, sea and animal life (and fair enough too after all that work). Either way the display was amazing.

After following the whales for a while it was time to head back to shore and we crossed paths with a small pod of dolphins who passed within metres of our kayaks and in some cases swum right beneath us, regarding us more of a traffic hazard than anything else.

There are times when you swim or paddle in the ocean and feel you are the only thing there, floating in splendid isolation. Not this morning, today I have never seen the ocean so alive.

Cape Byron loggerhead turtle



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