Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hervey Bay Whale Watching

I delayed this post a few days in order to participate in the "Travel Tuesdays" link-up hosted by my blog friend/real friend Courtney!

On the last day of our Brisbane trip, we headed about an hour north of Fraser Island to do some whale watching in Hervey Bay. We got lucky with our timing, as late winter is apparently the best time to see whales in the area, so we had high hopes for our cruise. Still, we were hoping to see some whales from afar but highly doubted we would see any as close as they were pictured on the website for our cruise operator, Whalesong Cruises. We set out into the bay and before long, the captain announced that he had seen a pod and was going to go check it out. Apparently humpback whales are extremely intelligent and are either "in the mood" to interact with the boats, or completely ignore them and will go underwater for up to 20 minutes. And then you're pretty much out of luck! We hung around the first pod for about 15 minutes, and saw the whales surface a few times, but they pretty much looked like blobs in the distance. Exhibit A:
Since the whales weren't showing much interest, we set off to find a friendlier group. We cruised for another half hour or so before spotting another pod of four whales. It didn't take long for them to become interested in the boat and start circling. 

Our first glimpse up close!
We ended up staying in the same place for about an hour while the four whales swam around us. It was a bit surreal to see them up so close. I took about 23480432 pictures, because it's not every day you get within a few feet of a whale. 
I am mildly obsessed with their tails.
And then there were two! They would swim together for a few minutes, and then separate and one would leave the area for awhile before coming back again. 
This guy did a little rolling over for us!
One thing I learned on this cruise: whales are really, really weird looking. 
For some reason, it was almost cooler to see the whales under water than above. They would randomly emerge from deep down and seeing them come to the surface was amazing.
This picture shows just how close they got to the boat. And yes, people are waving at the whales. Apparently if they see a lot of movement on the boat they are more interested and will be more apt to "perform" a bit. I have no idea if this is true, or if the cruise employees just told us this for kicks. I'm leaning toward the latter. As you can imagine, the guy in the bucket hat was an overly enthusiastic waver. He really carried the team. 
Another whale showed up!
 The tourist spotting was almost as good as the whale spotting. See: selfie stick guy. I actually was quite jealous of him, as I sadly forgot my selfie stick on this trip. This guy extended his all the way and put it underwater and probably has some super cool pictures now.

This was the coolest moment:
After about an hour, it was time for our boat to head back. Apparently it's illegal to start the boat when a whale is within a certain distance, so we kind of just had to camp out there for awhile until our captain called a different cruise over to lure the whales to their boat. Needless to say, we were extremely satisfied with our whale watching experience!

We headed straight back to Brisbane on Monday night, and arrived around dinner time. Courtney and her husband Travis are saints and they let us stay with them, as we had an early flight on Tuesday. We were happy to check off a few of the destinations up near Brisbane on this trip and felt like we fit a lot into a pretty short amount of time.
Monday, September 14, 2015

Spring is Here!

I still have one more post to get up from our trip to Brisbane, which I will try to have ready soon. Turns out I took about 7,000 pictures on several different cameras during our whale watching cruise, so I'm still sifting through those and trying to narrow it down to the truly blog-worthy photos.

In the meantime, spring has finally arrived in Melbourne! Yesterday was a beautiful 75 degrees, and Peter and I took advantage of the weather by picking up some groceries and wandering the Queen Vic Market and then walking to the Woolworth's grocery store in South Melbourne. By the way, I finally got a granny trolley, which is by far the best invention ever. 
Not the most flattering photo ever taken of me, but the only photo I have of the granny trolley at this point. It's literally life-changing. My friend Lauren got it for me for free when it was returned to the store where she works. Score! We can now buy a lot more groceries at once given that we don't have to carry them by hand. I don't even care that 93% of the people you see toting these around the city are women over the age of 70. 

Today hit 80 degrees and for the first time in a long time, I was uncomfortably hot walking around/on public transport. They just don't crank the air condition here the same way we do at home! It seemed like I was the only one suffering though; I spotted multiple people wearing puffer coats. Like a coat I would reserve for mid-winter in Minnesota. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would wear that today, or how they didn't actually melt. It will forever remain a mystery. Meanwhile, I was sweating it out in a t-shirt. 

Peter and I have been getting out a bit more at night now that the weather is nice. I took a few photos this weekend on our walk back from dinner in the city. 
It's supposed to rain tonight and then cool off a bit for the rest of the week, but it won't be long before we are back at the beach! 
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Scenic Flight Over Fraser Island

About halfway through our bus tour of Fraser Island, we pulled up to two small planes on the beach and the tour guide asked if anyone was interested in taking a scenic flight. Apparently Fraser Island is one of only two places in the world where you can take off and land on the sand. Now, I swore I would never again ride in a small plane after our scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef. It was extremely cool, probably the coolest thing I've ever done, but I hate flying and don't trust those little planes so I figured once was enough; don't want to tempt fate! Plus, said flights are not exactly cheap. So Peter and I had no intention of purchasing this add-on until we heard the price, which was too good to pass up. We quickly agreed to go before I had time to think too much about it and therefore probably back out!

A couple of families on our tour also decided to take the flight, so we had some company. This plane was actually somehow larger than the one we took over the Reef, which was a mild comfort. 
Here we are before taking off. The pilots of these scenic flights always look like they're about 12 years old, which doesn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in the passengers.
The last scenic flight we took required us to wear headphones, but for whatever reason, this one did not. Peter looks (appropriately) a little nervous in this picture.
Taking off on the beach! The runway was literally a strip of sand between orange construction cones. Super legit. Probably super safe.   
We headed out over the water first to look for marine life in the area. About 5 minutes into the flight, we spotted two whales in the water. The pilot took a sharp turn and descent to go back and find them and if I wasn't so excited about seeing whales I probably would have lost it. We got to see the whales jump out of the water from above which was amazing, as was being able to see them swimming under water.
Photography fail. This might be the worst picture to ever appear on the internet. I kept trying to get pictures of the whales as they were jumping, but I was apparently too slow and ended up with a bunch of pictures of the large splash their jump left behind. This was the only one I could find where you can barely make out the whale under the water (that slightly blue blob under the large white splash). Also, the windows on this plane were pretty scratched up. Maybe that's why it was cheap. 
Next we headed back toward the island to check out a few lakes and sand dunes. The ride had been really smooth until this point, where it started to get a little bumpy and I remembered why I swore off these things after the first time. 
The world's largest sand island from above!
The shipwreck and our tour bus on the beach. We did one more circle over the water to see if we could locate the whales again, but didn't see them. Then as we were descending to make our landing, I spotted two sharks in extremely shallow water right below us. The guide wasn't kidding about his warning to stay out of the water!
Landing on the sand was extremely smooth, thankfully. 
We survived our second scenic flight! I would say that this is the last one, but truth be told, we will probably do it again. Because we are insane.
Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fraser Island

After spending Saturday in Noosa, we woke up early Sunday to embark on a tour of Fraser Island with Fraser Explorer Tours. Since moving to Australia, we've heard this island mentioned a few times as a must-see so we worked it into our Brisbane trip and weren't disappointed! Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and features a variety of diverse landscapes including over 50 freshwater lakes. It would be easy to spend a few days on the island, but we got a pretty good overview on our day-long adventure. We met our tour bus bright and early at 8 am and were off to explore. 

I have never felt more like a tourist than riding in this giant bus:
We drove to the edge of Rainbow Beach and waited for the ferry to bring us across. The poor people in the jeep pictured were already stuck in the sand before even making it to the ferry. I'm guessing they had a pretty long day. As we passed them trying to push their car, Peter and I were reassured that we made the right decision in taking a tour instead of renting our own jeep. It's one of those things that sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice there is a lot of room for user error. I've spent enough hours of my life pushing cars out of snowbanks and I can't imagine sand would be any easier. 
 While we were waiting for the ferry, we spotted a pod of dolphins swimming off shore. They jumped a few times, which was really cool, but turns out it's nearly impossible to get a picture of jumping dolphins as its happening. I captured this really great moment instead. 
The ferry ride over to Fraser Island only took about fifteen minutes. I took this picture through the window as the bus was driving off of the boat.
We drove down the beach for about a half hour before pulling into the island's only resort for breakfast. On our way into the parking lot, we drove over a metal grate that the driver explained was designed to keep dingoes out of the populated areas. We never did see a dingo, which was disappointing, but we did see this sign warning tourists to look after their children. Scary! 
After breakfast we headed to Lake McKenzie, the most famous of the island's lakes. I have to say, I hadn't considered how bumpy the ride through the sand would be, and after just eating breakfast I felt a little bit sick as we made our way through the forest. I was starting to worry I wasn't going to make it the whole day, or worse, that I would get sick on the bus. Luckily I felt better after the first stop, but I moved to the seat next to the trash can to be on the safe side. 

Lake McKenzie is amazing. The water is extremely blue and crystal clear. It was a bit too chilly to swim, although a few people on our tour did get in. 
It was kind of a weird day weather-wise. The morning was nice and sunny, but in the half hour during which we left Lake McKenzie and made our way through the forest back to the beach, the sky had clouded over.

This photo is a little blurry, but this is the island police enforcing the speed limit. For some reason I really got a kick out of this. There really wasn't that much traffic on the beach, but I would have paid to see a high-speed police chase through the sand.
Most of the people we passed on the island appeared to be tourists, but we did see quite a few fishermen wading into the ocean. The tour guide told us that there is an abundance of marine life right off the island and no one goes in the water due to the large number of sharks in the area. 
We stopped at this large rock formation and tried to do a cool jumping picture but massively failed:
Our next stop was a shipwreck. Unfortunately, we completely missed the story on this as we were taking an optional scenic flight at the time. Since I took so many pictures on the plane, I'll write about that experience in a separate post.
Our next stop was Eli Creek, a rainforesty (that's a word) area with really pretty, clear water. There were a bunch of people there, including a group of guys wearing wigs and dressed in togas- not entirely sure what that was about- and a separate group of guys streaking on the beach. It was kind of a twilight zone experience. 
Again, we didn't get in because it was still cloudy and a little bit chilly, but some of the kids on our tour floated down the river on rafts.
We headed back toward Rainbow Beach mid-afternoon. The tide had come up considerably and the sun was shining once again.
The waves formed pools of water in the sand that appeared to be flat from a distance, but when you got really close, there was actually a pretty significant drop off. Another reason I'm glad we didn't try to drive ourselves! For example, the drop off in the picture below was about 3 feet. 
We made it back to the mainland and Peter and I immediately took off on our way up the coast to Hervey Bay, where we caught our whale watching tour the following day. 

Some warmer temperatures would have made the day even more enjoyable as we could have taken full advantage of the lake and river stops, but overall we loved Fraser Island! The coolest part of the day was the scenic flight, which I'll post about next!


Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



Search This Blog

Popular Posts



Powered by Blogger.



Email *

Message *