Moreton Island - Byron Bay

Trip Start Jan 2003
Trip End Dec 2003

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Friday, July 18, 2003

Day 168 - Moreton Island - Byron Bay

With a few hours to kill between check out and our boat departing back for the mainland, we joined a whale watching cruise. With evil weather beckoning and Australian laws preventing boats from moving to within 200 of whales, I can't say I was enthusiastic. How wrong could I be?!

The weather was indeed awful and there was a consistent whiff of seasickness induced vomit but this didn't prevent it from being one of the most memorable days of my life. Initially these 15m to 18m long creatures (incidentally with 2 foot long penises, well the males anyway) were reluctant to show their face and we had to be content with a rainbow for our efforts of braving the downpour. After a while a few were spotted ahead and the hassles of staying out in the wet proved worthwhile and we had the best vantage point. On the negative side, the whales were miles away, not doing anything interesting (no fin slaps, or tail slaps or spy peeping - yes there are names for each whale manoeuvre) and frustratingly, they were right next to another boat - there's no law stating that you have to move away from a whale, just that you can't approach them. Giving up on these, partly because we were exhausted by having to constantly jostle for position with the throngs of people who had now come to join us we made our way to the back of the boat. I guess it's the question that everyone asks themselves when whale watching - "Do you stay where you are hoping the whales will do something or do you move to somewhere else on the boat, hoping you'll then have the best view if and when a new whale appears?". Disgruntled we walked to the hull and as soon as we settled, a hupback whale about 16m long breached. A whale braching is when it completely jumps out the water, twists a bit and then splashes, apparently trying to rid itself of parasites. A proper breach like this one is apparently quite a rare sighting and I know I'll never see nature perform anything nearly as majestic. None of us knew what to say but we were all hoping we'd caught a photograph. (We now know we got two - hurrah!) All this and only about 50m away from us. Later on we were treated to a second distant breach and several less acrobatic but curious humpbacks. Their migration to and from Antartica only lasts a few months and it seems a real privilege to have seen them. The only thing that could have topped it off would have been if we had seen the albino whale that was featured on last night's national news and is apparently around these parts.

Moreton Island was another highlight. Although so much of the East Coast has been mundane, along with the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays it makes a trio of places I'm going to reember and drea about for a long time to come. Not wishing to stay in brisbane any longer than necessary, we left immediately and experienced our first traffic jam. With the clock of our remaining time in Australia ticking we bypassed supposed attractions like Surfers Paradise and finally made it to New South Wales and Byron Bay, the ost easterly point in Australia. The PMA derived from a few good days seems to have paid off as we've landed on our feet with an undeservedly deserted and gorgeous guesthouse just out of town. With comfortable beds, en suite bathrooms and an empty lounge with cable TV it feels like 5 star luxury for 8 quid a night.
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