Each year, as the cooler months roll across Victoria, thousands of whales can be seen making their way along the Great Ocean Road.
Migrating from Antarctic waters towards the warm Indian Ocean, the whales make a pitstop along the Great Ocean Road to breed and raise their young. Each year the coast welcomes over 25 different species of whales including Southern Right Whales, Humpbacks, Blue Whales and Orcas.
Warrnambool’s Whale Nursery
Head to Victoria’s Southern Right Whale Nursery in Warrnambool. Every year female whales return here to calve, while males and young adults stay further out to sea. The whales come within just a few hundred meters of the shore and are easy to spot from the whale spotting platform and beach. If possible, head down during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest. Whales enjoy sunning themselves in this warmer period and are likely to breech in order to get closer to its warmth.
Nicknamed the whale corridor, the path leading to the nursery is buzzing with keen whale watchers each winter. It’s no wonder too, for this is the only place in the world where you can watch whales breeding so close to the shore.
But how do you know they’ll return?
Well, the special thing about Southern Right Whales is that they always return to the same water to nurse their young, so we get to see them every year. However, though this makes for a great sight, for the first part of the 19th century it also meant they were easy targets for whalers. In fact, the species name comes from their designation as the ‘right’ whale to hunt, as they were easily identifiable by the callosities on their backs and slow in the water. These whales were so popular to hunt that by the time commercial whaling was banned the species became vulnerable to extinction.
Today their population is slowly recovering, with a long gestational period and large time frames between births, it’s going to be a while before they are out of the clear. Currently, the whales are classified as endangered in Australia. Populations of the whales outside of Australia have greater numbers than those which visit the coastline of the Great Ocean Road and can skew overall population trends. For example, the individual population of these animals along the coast of Chile are classed as critically endangered, despite the species overall classification.
Where else can you see whales?
Social media and the internet have made whale spotting easier than ever before. Each year official Great Ocean Road Whale Sighting pages provide updates of every sighting reported. Simply check where whales were last seen on any given day and head down to watch them playing in the water!
Though the Whale Nursery is the best place to see these sea beasts, they are also seen on occasion at Port Fairy, the 12 Apostles, Lorne, and Port Campbell. Be prepared with your camera and a good pair of binoculars for your chance to see these majestic creatures for yourself!
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