Whales ! – A quick stop in Queensland.

Sunday 20 July 2014 – Brisbane, Australia.

After an early walk with my mum on Friday morning I packed up the remainder of my stuff – I have accumulated enough extra bits and pieces to be taking a second bag back to London. Surprisingly I did not buy anything in New Zealand – apart from essentials like wine and four packets of Tim Tam biscuits to take back with me 🙂

My daughter, Meliesha was taking me out to the airport so mum and I met her at the newly renovated Lopdell House in Titirangi. I used to be on the committee of the local community arts council in Titirangi and we had a gallery in Lopdell House. The gallery has recently re-opened after the renovations and the new space is so much better than the old one, with some really nice natural light. Mel, mum and I met on the new roof terrace and some lovely views over the start of the Waitakere Ranges and the Manukau Harbour – and such a glorious winters day to be up there.

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After saying my farewells to all I was dropped at the airport for my flight to Brisbane, Australia where I am going to spend some time with my oldest son, Dom. I was on time for my flight, unlike the plane – though you can see it has just landed in the distance.

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It was a good flight over the Tasman and I was only a little bit late landing. I have decided to rent a car while I am here as distances are long and public transport not quite at London standards. I drove down to the small town of Beenleigh, which is about half way between the Gold Coast and Brisbane airport. Dom has been back in Australia for three weeks now and has started work as a plumbing apprentice, he is living with his mother, my ex-wife and I am going to be staying there as well. Thankfully we are on good terms ! I have been gifted a lovely head cold by my mum, so did not stay up too late on Friday night.

Last night we kicked around a few options for things to do while I am here and decided that if the wind dropped we would spend a pile of money, do something mega-touristy and go whale watching. Luckily it did, so we did…

I am not really one for large scale organised tourist activities so it was a bit strange to be forking out almost 200AUD to go whale watching with SeaWorld. We arrived 2 minutes before the boat left, so grabbed a quick coffee before getting on board. IMG 0127

The journey started from the harbour created by the Spit and there was a good mix of bird life on the low tide sand banks while we waited for the boat to head out.

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It took about fifteen minutes to get through the harbour and out to the open sea, to the south was the ugly expanse of hotels that is Surfers Paradise and to the north, where we spent most of the trip, was South Stradbroke Island.

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We spotted our first whale soon after getting into the ocean. The humpback whales spend a little bit of time in the large Gold Coast bay as they head north (and then back south again) in their migration from the winter Antarctic oceans to their breeding grounds off the coast of North Queensland. I was testing out my new Canon G16 camera today and was pretty pleased. All the shots were taken at maximum optical zoom, any closer photos posted here have been cropped.

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I was not sure what to expect from the experience, visiting animals in the wild is never a guarantee for any sort of action, nor any close up shots. The boats are not allowed within 100 metres of the whales – of course the whales can come closer to the boats if they desire – though this did not happen for us.

The trip started off fairly slow, with some distant viewing of solo whales and small pods. So I did do a photo swap with Dom while I had the chance 🙂

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We followed one whale for a while and when it chose to dive, we did get the opportunity to get the ‘tail shot’. Though this means the whale has dived deep and could be gone for up to 45 minutes !

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We soon spotted a small pod of whales in the distance and motored over to have a look. Often the whales are spotted in the distance when they blow out water as they exhale, and all hundred or so of us on the boat were scanning the water for the tell tale spouts. This group made it easy to spot.

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We were told that this group was likely made up of a mature female and two or three young males seeking her attentions. She was obviously getting frustrated with them as she started to bang her fin on the surface, a humpback whale signal for leave me alone ! It was very cool to watch.

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After a few minutes of banging her fin, she decided to give up and took a dive.

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We were looking around for a while when all of a sudden there was yelling from some of the other visitors and I turned round in time to see a humpback just smashing back into the water after a breach – when the whale ‘jumps’ out of the water.

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According to the whale expert on the boat they do not see breaches every time they go out, so this was really exciting for us. The whales breach for a variety of reasons, most likely to clean barnacles or other hitch hikers off of their skin or to have a good scratch of something that is itching. Whatever the reason, it was very cool to watch and we were lucky to see three or four of them. They are also really hard to photograph as you never know exactly where they are going to appear.

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After the action was over and the whales disappeared beneath the surface we waited for a while before this group finally re-appeared on the surface.

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But they did not stay long and this was our final view of them. We turned around soon after they left and headed back to land.

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It was a great outing and I was really pleased we did it. We saw way more than we expected and the breaches were amazing to watch.

Back in the car Dom and I cruised down the the coast as far as the coastal road allowed before heading in to a mall for some lunch. After lunch and still with a few hours of day left we took a drive up into the coastal hills and visited Mount Tamborine. We stopped off for a beer near the top and I took a photo back down over the coast and the other side of Surfers Paradise to the one seen earlier in the day, this was the last photo I took in Australia for some reason.IMG 0128

After popping in to visit my ex-brother in law on this 40th birthday, Dom and I went to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to join 38,000 others to watch the NZ Warriors lose to the Brisbane Broncos in a NRL rugby league game. It all started so well (the Warriors ) were 12-0 up after only a few minutes.

On Sunday Dom and I went for a posh lunch in a restaurant in Sanctuary Cove before heading to the movies to see Transformers 4. It was OK, longer than I expected, but I mostly enjoyed it. The CGI is getting pretty special these days. And that was pretty much it for my holiday. In the early evening I drove back to Brisbane Airport to return the car and with a massive head cold boarded the plane for the shorter of the two flights back to London. Amazingly I had a whole row to myself and actually slept for a good couple of hours on the flight. I was very pleased !!

I had a good time in Aussie, it was great to spend some time with Dom, and really pleased he is doing well over there. It was good seeing my ex, Deana and I really appreciated being able to stay at her house as it saved me having to find accommodation that would have been quite a distance away.

I had three hours in Singapore airport and caught the little train over to terminal two to see if I could find the Kobo e-reader I left on the flight to Singapore from London. It had been found and was in lost property. Sadly lost property is on the other side of immigration and there was not enough time to get out of the airport to get it. Though Singapore Airlines are going to send it to London for me to collect, nice one!

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The almost fourteen hours of flying to London was pretty awful, I did not sleep at all, and the plane was very full. I watched a few movies (Lego movie) and seven episodes of the new TV series ‘Believe’, but was hugely relieved to land in London !

It was a very short, very busy and very enjoyable trip to NZ and Australia. It was great seeing my family again and the new addition, Luca.  I love you all and look forward to seeing you again soon.

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.

One thought on “Whales ! – A quick stop in Queensland.”

  1. Cool whale shots, Phil. ‘They are also really hard to photograph as you never know exactly where they are going to appear’ – bit like photographing non-league footballers in action then!

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