Most whales migrate to eat and breed. For example, baleen whales feed mostly on krill, which is abundant in very cold waters. However, these cold waters are not a suitable environment in which to give birth – newborn calves are born without a protective blubber layer under their skin and would quickly freeze to death. So whales meet their need for food and suitable calving areas by travelling long distances from cold feeding areas, to warm, shallower waters for calving and mating.
Most large whales migrate, however migratory patterns vary from species to species and also vary within and between populations. The Humpback Whale is our most common whale, reaching lengths of 16 meters and weighing in at a very impressive 36,000kg these magnificent animals are truly one of natures greatest masterpieces.
May - August
In May Humpback Whales begin passing by Batemans Bay on their Northern Migration coming from antarctic waters in the south.
By early August these whales have moved onto their breeding grounds up north around the equator. On the northern Migration we see a lot of breaching whales and active males showing their dominance to impress females for mating.
August - December
Mid to late August to the beginning of December the whales are now all swimming south and we start seeing mothers with their newborn calves.
They tend to spend more time on surface and swim slower (so that the calf can keep up!) although occasionally we will see some long down times. This part of the season is best for Muggings were the whales will come up close to the boat and investigate us!
July - September
From July to September we have occasional sightings of Southern Right Whales. These whales are not seen as often as Humpbacks which we see on almost every cruise.
Southern Right Whales are similar in size, but don't follow a yearly migration like the Humpback Whales. In September we also have the first whales on their way south again. A very interesting time of year with whales going both ways!
We are lucky enough to witness one of the longest whale migrations in the world straight off the coast of Batemans Bay with around 20.000 animals passing the Bay each year.
Humpbacks have a wide geographic range and are found in all the world’s oceans. During summer months, populations in the southern hemisphere spend their time in Antarctica feeding. In late autumn they begin an annual migratory route to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the warmer tropical waters of the Pacific. They return south in spring.
Humpback whales migrate around 5000km on average, one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on Earth.