Explore the vast array of wildlife in the Whitsundays Marine Park.
Whales visit the Whitsundays every year on their annual migration north during the winter months. These magnificent animals can be seen from June to September, and they are a common sight frolicking amongst the islands. The warm, calm, protected waters of the Whitsundays are an ideal nursery for the whales to give birth to their calves. Whale sightings are a free bonus, and occur almost daily for most boats during these peak winter months. Humpback and pilot whales are the most common species sighted, and ‘Migaloo’ the white humpback whale has also been seen in the Whitsundays for the last few years. We ask our charterers to understand Safe Whale Watching Practices, in the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area, vessels can be no closer than 300m to a whale. Whales may approach a boat, in which case the skipper must turn the engines off immediately. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)’s website details safe whale watching practices to protect this incredible species and ensure their ongoing survival.
We love our turtles and the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef are turtle central, with six of the world’s seven marine turtle species cruising through its tropical waters. Green, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles are the most commonly sighted species here. Some females are marathon swimmers, travelling from as far afield as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and New Caledonia.
The Whitsundays is home to a variety of rays, although to meet the magnificent manta ray in the wild is amazing. These creatures have wings spanning up to seven metres … and to have one glide close by you before gracefully somersaulting and looping away is an unforgettable experience. They can come quite close but there’s no chance of a collision, mantas have electro-receptors that alert them to other objects in the water. They also don’t have a stinging barb on their tails.
The distinctive maori wrasse has thick fleshy lips and such a prominent bump on its forehead that it’s sometimes known as a humphead wrasse. The maori wrasse is a curious fish that will approach your boat, and if snorkelling or diving … don’t be surprised if you find one following you around like a faithful friend. Growing to more than two metres and weighing as much as a person, the charismatic maori wrasse is a protected species within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
A much smaller fishy friend is the clownfish … and thanks to the 2003 animated Disney film ‘Finding Nemo’, many visitors are excited to spot them on our fringing coral reefs. These tiny adorable, orange, white and black fish have a mutually beneficial relationship with sea anemones, and can live with them because of the special coating protecting them from anemones’ venomous tentacles. The clownfish can hide from potential predators while protecting the anemones from their own enemies.
Giant clams are extraordinary molluscs, which can grow to 1.5 metres in length and weigh up to 200 kilograms. They feature a pretty ordinary exterior but a stunning luminescent mantle, the fleshy part protruding from the shell, which is like a human fingerprint, no two clams have the same mantle pattern or colours. These wild technicolour effects actually come from algae living within the clam’s tissue. In the wild, the world’s largest bivalve mollusc lives for around a century.
The graceful dugong, or sea cows as they are sometimes called, graze on seagrass which forms meadows in sheltered coastal waters. Early explorers and sailors believed that they were mermaids because of their streamlined bodies and the large teats at the base of the flippers of the female dugong. The status of dugong populations in an area can be used as an indicator of general ecosystem health. Dugongs are more closely related to elephants than to other marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, but their closest living aquatic relatives are the manatees.
The bottle nose dolphin can be seen all year round in the Whitsundays, these intelligent animals are playful and family oriented marine mammals that never fail to delight. Dolphins feed off small fish with occasional squid, crab, shrimp and other small animals. They work in a school to maximise the harvest, surrounding their prey and hearding them just like a sheep dog working their flock. Dolphins search for prey primarily using echolocation, which is similar to sonar. They emit clicking sounds and listen for the return echo to determine the location and shape of nearby items. Dolphins also use this sound for communication, including squeaks and whistles, emitted from the blowhole and also by body language, such as leaping from the water or slapping their tails on the surface.
These are just a few of the locals you are most likely to meet on your charter holiday cruising around the Whitsunday Islands.
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most incredible natural wonders blessed with the outstanding beauty of the world’s largest coral reef stretching some 2300 km. The reef is teaming with marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and hundreds of unique tropical islands with some of the worlds most voted beautiful beaches. Because of its natural beauty, the Great Barrier Reef attracts around 2 million visitors a year.