Quite literally, sailing into very large whales!!!

Trip Start May 31, 2005
Trip End Aug 31, 2007

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Wednesday, August 2, 2006

31st Jul
Spent a wet and windy night in the tent in Augusta before going into town to find a whalewatching company. It then decided to start belting down again. The shop wasn't open, so we decided to drive on and hopefully go watching in Albany instead.
On the drive along the south coast to Albany, you go through the Karri forests, where these humongous trees grow to stupid heights and have massive trunks. It was also on this drive that you could stop at Gloucester National Park to climb 'The Gloucester Tree'. This, we had to do. Not only did it sound extremely dangerous, but it was also 60m high and used to be used as a fire lookout as it is the tallest of the Karri trees in that area.
We pulled in to the car park and thought we'd have a quick cup a soup to gain some energy, not to mention warmth! The moment we took the loaf of bread out of the trunk, we were bombarded with birds of every size and colour. Gala's, lorikeets, you name it, it was there. One landed on Mike's head and he had one on each shoulder where one relieved itself - It's supposed to be good luck though right? We gave them some bread - although you're not supposed to, drank our soup and set off for the tree.
It was pretty tall and had metal pegs stuck in the bark, spiralling around the bark up to the top, where there was a boxed in lookout platform.It had only just stopped raining, which would make it slippery, but we started to climb up, me first, so i could take Mike down with me, if I was going to go! It was really hard work and closer to the top, the pegs were vertical on top of each other, like climbing a ladder, but at zero degrees rather than an easy 45/50!! We reached the top, looked out over the top of the other trees, and climbed back down again. Our palms were hurting from grabbing onto the metal pegs and legs shaking. All was good though. We were the only ones there, besides the lady working on the pay booth. So, worst case, should anything have happened, we would've been there for quite some time without anyone realising. It would be very easy for someone to fall or slip. It's pretty crazy. No first aid kit, no ranger. "At your own risk" is what it's all about!!!!
We then stopped at the treetop walk in the 'Valley of Giants' - another forest of massively tall 'red tingle' trees. A canopy walk is suspended above the trees, the highest pioint being 40m above ground. We did the 'Ancient Empire'walk and actually stood inside some of the trees that had been hollowed out by disease or insects. They are rather large. Okay if you're into trees!
Arrived in Albany. Love it! Nice size town. Easy to get around and everything you need, including K-Mart. Stayed at one of the caravan sites owned by an english couple that I cleaned for in Perth. Still didn't get any discount though!!! The cheek!

1st August
Got up early as wanted to try and get on a whalewatching tour. Called up and were able to drive straight to the jetty and get on a boat leaving at 10am. Sweet.
Our skipper, a little old David Attenborough wannabe, gave us a speech about the southern right whales and told us how touched he was, that we had chosen to sail with him. (He was a bit deep!!)
So off we sailed out of the harbour. We sailed out and around into Middleton Bay. This is where I, yes me, spotted the first two whales. They were quite close to the rocks, in fairly shallow waters. We think it was two adults, playing about, maybe trying to attract some female attention. We watched them blowing and spy hopping (sticking their heads out so they can see what's going on around them). No breaching out of the water though. We watched for a while and then moved off out into the sea again. We sailed into a bay. It was a beautiful semi circular bay, with white sand and crystal blue shallow water. Here we saw a mother and her new calve, playing together in the shallows. The mother was making sure the baby didn't go too shallow and get stuck. Skipper said that they had been in this area for a few days now. When they saw them a few days ago, the mother, tossed the calve out of the water and into the air, as if to show him off. What a sight that must've been, although can't imagine baby being too pleased about it!
They did a lot of the 'blow the water out of your head' stuff, and quite a few tail lifts and slaps. The baby did body rolls too. It was pretty amazing.
Again, we left them and sailed on around the rocks. Skipper starts rambling on about some migrating birds, that were nesting in the rocks. Mike is sure he just saw a whale up ahead, but we couldn't get a word in to tell skip. Then, as if in slow motion, I watch this japanese guy behind me, point out his arm and open his mouth to shout. I turned to see a massive whale head and some beady eyes looking right at us, quite literally in the boats path. Then, we ploughed straight into the poor thing. I think he had time to duck his head down, but we hit him with a tiny bump and then watched the sihouette of two humongous whales swim beneath our vessel. Skip was sure that we didn't hurt it. One, because the whale was twice the size of the boat and two, because they didn't swim off. They ducked down to go under the boat, and then popped back up again, quite happy for us to observe them. It was amazing to see its massive head, covered in barnacles, and those little eyes looking right at us. Still, he can't have been too impressed. We certainly were though!
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