Humpbacks heading south

Humpback whales that began their annual migration in autumn from the nutrient rich Southern Ocean to their breeding grounds in the Kimberley are now beginning to head back south down the Western Australian coast.

In a trial program approved by the State Government, Western Australia is now one of the premier destinations in the world for swimming with humpback whales. Visitors to Ningaloo Marine Park can swim with these massive marine mammals as they traverse the Coral Coast.

Visitors can also experience whale sharks, manta rays and turtles, which are usually present while humpback whales are migrating through the area.

The in-water interactions with humpback whales are managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions under strict licence conditions, supported by a research and monitoring program.

Improvements in tour delivery over the past three years include locating whales through spotter planes communicating directly to the boats, direct radio contact between the boat’s skipper and in-water guide and on-board drones – all helping to increase the success rate of interactions with the migrating whales.

After having been hunted almost to extinction until the 1970s, the humpback whale population has recovered to such a level that an estimated 35,000 migrate from the Antarctic to our warmer waters every year.

In the south of the State, some of the best locations for observing whales on their epic migration are Geographe Bay, the Margaret River region, Augusta, Denmark, Albany and Bremer Bay.


Image: Humpbacks are renowned for their spectacular surfacing behaviours – breaching, rolling in the air with outstretched pectorals and crashing noisily back into the water. The males are famous for their long, complex and evolving songs. (Image credit: Tourism WA)