Whale watching in Bondi

It’s easy to wish the winter months away, dreaming of the warmth and endless outdoor fun of summer. Can’t we all just turn into bears and hibernate until daylight saving starts again? Thankfully there are a few great things to do in Bondi in winter, and one of those is whale watching.  The excitement of seeing a whale gliding through the water or leaping through the air never loses its novelty. We’re very lucky to have a ring-side seat right along the Bondi to Bronte walk.

Humpback whale breaching (Source: Wikipedia)

Humpback whale breaching (Source: Wikipedia)

Whale watching season typically begins in early May and finishes in December, so now is a great time to keep your eye out for these majestic creatures. It’s always exciting when walking along the Bondi to Bronte walk to see a cluster of people pointing seaward and realise that you’ve arrived just at the right time to enjoy the show.

Why migrate in winter?

The reason for the activity at this time of year is that whales migrate from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to give birth in the warmer tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef, passing along the East coast of Australia on the way. Giving birth in warmer waters increases the calf’s chances of survival as they are born with very little of the body fat they require to insulate themselves from the cold, Antarctic waters.

How to spot a whale

The species of whale that can be seen most often between May and December is the humpback. During summer months the odd pilot whale and false killer whale can also be seen.  Southern right whales are also seen during winter months, but are much rarer off the Bondi coastline.

Dolphins can also be seen throughout the year, but bigger schools become more prevalent when there are a lot of bait-fish in late summer. Dolphins and humpback whales coexist with no threat to one another, so may be seen together if you’re lucky!

Source: Flickr - Isaac Kohane

Image Source: Flickr – Isaac Kohane

Whale spotting tips:

Look out for spouts, or blows – these are plumes of water that are formed when a whale breathes out as they reach the surface. The size and shape of the plume is unique to each species. For example, humpback whales have a tall, column-shaped blow.

Be patient – some whales can dive for ten minutes or longer, so you may have to be patient to see them surface again.

Look out for fins sticking out of the water – thankfully, not every fin belongs to a shark! All whales have dorsal fins or ridges on their back, although some are larger than others.

If you see a tail, you may need to wait a while – whales have large tails that they use as propellers. If you see a tail, the whale is on its way down and may not be back up for a few minutes.

Tips courtesy of thewhaletrail.org. Head to thewhaletrail.org for more interesting information about whales.

Make it cruisy

Cruises are also a great way to get up close to the whales and capture some amazing photos. According to Chris Pilkington of Whale Watching cruise company Fantasea Adventure Cruising, “On one trip last year we heard a report of several whales being very active. Once we arrived at their location they ambushed us and hung around our boat for over an hour. They swam under the boat and lay on their backs beneath us and would then spy hop* at us only a few metres away. Our passengers and crew were amazed and got the best photos, videos and memories from this special experience.”

*Spy hopping is when whales hold themselves vertically with their head out of the water, kicking with their tail so that they can take a look around.

Fantasea whale spotting boat - Image courtesy of Fantase Adventure Cruises

One of the Fantasea whale spotting boats getting up close to a whale – Image courtesy of Fantasea Adventure Cruising

Some interesting facts about whales:

– Some scientists say that their closest living relative is the hippo

– Sperm Whales are known to sleep ‘standing up’, with their body vertical in the water

– The blue whale has the largest heart of any animal in the world and can weigh as much as a VW beetle

– Blue whales are pregnant for almost two years

– The southern right whale has the largest testes in the animal kingdom – each pair weighs the equivalent of around 1,000 bags of sugar (you wouldn’t want to get too close to one of those boulders!)


Fantasea cruises leave from Darling Harbour and Circular Quay daily. They go straight out through the heads and up to 15 miles offshore, although the routes can change from day-to-day, depending on whale sightings and activity. Check the Fantasea Adventure Cruising website for more information including prices and cruise times.


Tracey @ What’s New Bondi xx

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