Sunshine Coast Afloat was the first tour operator across our stunning region to offer “extreme” whale watching. Our custom-built, turbo-charged speed boat will take you screaming across the water at speeds of up to 40 knots, to the local sites where our biggest aquatic visitors come to play!

Humpback Whales

The Humpback whales are visiting our waters in record numbers. With more than 10,000 set to grace our shores this winter this tour will bring you closer to these magnificent creatures than any other. In fact, Hela-Va jet will have you sitting so low and close to the water, you’ll almost feel like you’re swimming with them (but don’t worry, you won’t even get wet!).

The Humpback Whales are playful creatures and often treat awe-struck whale watchers to an impressive display of acrobatics as they play with their calves. So it’s not all speed and action, we’ll slow to a crawl and spend time soaking in the experience of viewing these animals in their home environment. Dolphins also seem to be attracted to our speedy boat and often cruise along with us!

This tour aboard Hela-Va Jet is the perfect balance of adrenalin and whale watching. With some wild spins, drifting turns and throttle-stomping straightaways, this unique and exciting experience is one you’ll be talking about for many years to come!

Whale watching tours operate from July – October.

Queensland’s whale watching season has started for some and it is not that far away before we begin as well.

We have picked a date – 2nd July, 2018 so book your spot by call Paddy on 0412 155 814.

It is expected to be another massive year so we thought we would keep you informed and give you some interesting facts about these fascinating creatures.

With the massive increase in Humpback Whales each year now, we are expecting to have over 30,000 pass the Sunshine Coast this season.

To be able to get you up close and personal with these majestic animals is exhilarating.  We love to be able to share this experience with you.

Some Fascinating Facts about Humpback Whales are: –

  • The average weight is 45 tonnes which is about 1000 children together
  • An average length of 13 to 17 metres which is about 10 adults lying head to foot.
  • The average lifespan is between 45 – 50 years
  • Calves are fed daily over 400 litres of rich milk which is the consistency of condensed cream
  • Adult Whales can hold their breath under water for over half an hour
  • An expelled breath or ‘blow’ that reaches a speed of between 300 – 500 kilometres per hour as it exists through the blowhole.
  • The Humpback Whale has two blow holes, one for each lung. Each of its lungs is the size of a small car.
  • Humans identify different whales is by their tails. Each whale has different characteristics, just like our fingerprints!
  • The Humpback Whale has no teeth instead they have baleen plates, that acts like a giant sieve!
  • They also have little or no sense of smell or taste
  • They do have very sensitive skin that is easily sunburned
  • Remarkable eyes with strong muscles that change the shape of the lens so they can see in the air or underwater.
  • Their eye the size of a grapefruit
  • Incredible hearing ranging over many kilometres for navigation, communication and finding food
  • Calls or songs that travel hundreds of kilometres
  • Pectoral fins that are ten times longer than your arm
  • You identify Whales mainly by their tail flukes  but also dorsal fins and body markings
  • They have a Belly Button as well.
  • Humpback calves stay with their mothers for 11–12 months before becoming independent. During this time, the biggest threat they face is attack by killer whales or sharks.


The Southern Right Whales is another species you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of on the Sunshine Coast! This whale is the rarest of the four species you’ll find in Queensland’s waters and is currently considered endangered. The good news is, their population is on the rise meaning sightings are becoming more and more common! Here’s what to look out for on your whale watching tour.


  • Adult Southern Right Whales range from 14-18 metres in length
  • These large animals weigh up to 80 tonnes – that’s the equivalent of 8 adult elephants
  • Their mating season is from June – August, which is when there’ll be the greatest chance of spotting on one the Sunshine Coast
  • Compared to other whale species, their heads is disproportionately large, making up roughly one third of the whale’s body.
  • Unlike other species, the southern right whale does not have a dorsal fin.
  • They have a dark greyish/black skin tone, with white patches on its throat and belly.
  • The exact lifespan of these animals is unknown, but it’s estimated to be between 50-100 years


  • Like the humpback and dwarf minke, the Southern Right Whales also primarily feed on krill, plankton and other tiny crustraceans.
  • Their migration patterns are similar to that of the humpback, spending their feeding season in the colder Antarctic waters, and migrating north up Queensland’s coast for mating and birthing.
  • These whales are skimmers and can be seen swimming at or near the surface of the water – this is great for whale watchers!
  • Southern Right whales are fairly active and can be found performing acrobatics in the water
  • They’re a very social species, and have been known to approach boats and vessels to observe them and the people.
  • But they’re also gentle giants, appearing to be thoughtful when interacting with humans and small animals by limiting their activity, to ensure they do not cause injury to others.
  • Unlike other species, male whales to not typically fight with one another or show jealousy when it comes to mating.


With as few as 12,000 Southern Right Whales spread through our oceans, they are the rarest of the whales you’ll likely spot in the Sunshine Coast’s waters. But, with their population on the rise and sightings becoming increasingly common, your chances of seeing these playful giants are better than ever before! Keep your eyes peeled  – they’ve even been known to swim as close in as the surf zone!


Orcas, commonly known as killer whales, are lured to the Sunshine Coast’s waters during the winter months thanks to the abundance of food on offer…with a favourite being the humpback and minke whales!

Orcas prey on these whales, and with thousands likely to visit our shores from May – November, it’s highly likely there’ll be some orca pods lurking in the background!

Here are some facts about these fascinating creatures to help you spot one on your whale watching tour.


  • Orcas are black and white, with a white eye patch
  • They can weigh up to 6 tonnes, and range from 23 to 30 feet in length
  • Their average lifespan is 50 to 80 years
  • They have a diverse diet, feeding on fish, marine animals and even other whales
  • Lucky for them however, there is no other animal that preys on them!
  • They are a toothed whale
  • Orcas can be found in each of the world’s oceans and in a variety of marine environments


  • They’re extremely intelligent and highly social animals
  • They hunt in pods – family groups of up to 40 individuals
  • Their sophisticated hunting techniques and vocal behaviours are often specific to particular groups and passed across generations
  • Contrary to popular belief, wild killer whales are actually not considered a threat to humans – they’ve only ever been aggressive towards humans whilst kept in captivity!
  • Unlike most other species of whales, Orca whales do not appear to follow a regular migration route each year, instead driven by the availability of food
  • Orcas are not actually whales, but in fact the largest of the dolphins!

With more humpback whales to feed on, it’s highly likely there’ll be more orca pods in the Sunshine Coast’s waters this winter! Another reason to book your whale watching tour with Sunshine Coast Afloat, to view all these wondrous animals at play!


There are thought to be roughly 40,000 humpback whales across the world. With half of these expected to glide through the Sunshine Coast’s waters this winter, here are some fun facts to school you up on these magnificent creatures!


  • The female humpbacks are longer than the males. A female can measure up to 50 feet long, with their tale up to 18 feet wide!
  • The average weight of the humpback whale is 45 tonnes. That’s equivalent to over 20 cars, or 1000 children.
  • Humpback whales usually live to between 45- 50 years.
  • They have very sensitive skin that is easily sunburned.
  • They have no sense of smell or taste, but have incredible hearing ranging over many kilometres for communicating and finding food.
  • The whale’s tale is like human fingerprints – each has unique and different characteristics.
  • The males’ tales are usually covered in battle scars as a result of the fierce competition for available females. This is the easiest way to tell the difference between male and female! The easiest way to tell the difference between a male and a female!
  • The Humpback Whale has two blow holes – one for each lung. Each of its lungs is the size of a small car.
  • Baby humpback whales, known as calves, are fed over 400 litres of rich milk each day, which is the consistency of condensed cream.



  • Humpback whales’ have a huge appetite and can devour up to 1800kgs of krill per day!
  • During mating season, humpback whales will fast for months at a time, so they can focus on migration and mating.
  • Female humpbacks usually get pregnant in Queensland’s warm waters, and return the following year to give birth. Their calf will not survive if it is born into the freezing waters of the Antarctic.
  • Humpback whales are the most acrobatic of all the whales, and can often be seen playing in the water and putting on a show!
  • The tale is used as a form of non-verbal communication through a tail slap…which can be heard underwater several hundred metres away.
  • Each pod communicates through its own dialect, and sings its own whale song. These songs can be heard up to 32km away and can be up to 20 minutes long. The whales are known to repeat the same song over for hours.
  • Adult whales can hold their breath under water for over half an hour.


  • Humpback Whales travel over 10,000kms on their yearly migration, the longest migration journey of any animal in history.
  • This migration is largely driven by their immense appetite and love of krill! These small prawn like creatures are abundant in the Antarctic waters.
  • They migrate north to Queensland’s subtropical waters to mate and give birth. Their new baby calves would not survive if born in the freezing Antarctic waters.


Nothing compares to the thrill of seeing these giant creatures up close in their natural habitat. Let Sunshine Coast Afloat take you on a whale watching experience of a lifetime!


Humpback Whales may be the most commonly sighted whale in the Sunshine Coast’s waters over winter, but they’re not the only species in town! Dwarf Minke Whales also undertake an annual migration north up Australia’s East Coast, before gathering at Northern Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef for a few months over winter.

Passing through the Sunshine Coast between June and August, you may get lucky and spot one of these magnificent animals whilst on your whale watching tour. Here are some fun facts about these whales, and how you can spot them apart from the humpback!

  • Dwarf Minke Whales are smaller than the humpback, but can still grow up to 8 metres in length
  • They are distinguished by their unique colourings, particularly its white pectoral flippers with black edging
  • The dwarf minke whales show up every winter on Great Barrier Reef, where they spend a few short months.
  • Queensland is the only area in the world where humans can interact with this species
  • Dwarf Minkes are reliably spotted during the winter months on the outer edge of the northern Great Barrier Reef, where they spend a few months
  • They have one calf each year which is almost 2 metres long at birth. That’s longer than the height of a baby giraffe!
  • They can live to 60 years old
  • The white and grey markings on the side of a minke whale are unique to each whale, much like fingerprints are to humans
  • They are one of the fastest types of whales, and can travel at speeds of more than 30km



Keep your eyes peeled for these white and grey whales when you’re out on your whale watching tour!



The Sunshine Coast has become one of Australia’s most popular whale watching destinations, and with more whales set to frolic along our shores than ever before, 2018 is shaping up to be the best season yet!

From early May, 20,000 Humpback whales will begin their annual migration north. Escaping the cold Antarctic waters, these magnificent creatures will make their way up Queensland’s southeast coast, where the warm subtropical waters offer a more comfortable mating and birthing environment. From August through to October, they’ll make their way back south, with their new babies in tow!

Whale watching has quickly become an exciting tourist attraction on the Sunshine Coast. Famous for their acrobatics and playful nature, awestruck visitors are often treated to a show of tale slaps, body slams and blow-hole explosions!

Nothing quite compares to seeing these gentle giants up close, and never has it been easier! Sunshine Coast Afloat offers daily whale watching tours from 1 July to 31 October, departing from the beautiful Mooloolaba. Their intimate and unique tours ensure you always get the best seat in the house, so there’ll be nothing to get in the way of the perfect Insta-snap!

If you’re seeking blue skis, golden beaches and a guaranteed “whale of a time”, start organising your winter getaway to The Sunshine Coast, and get in touch with Sunshine Coast Afloat for a whale watching experience of a lifetime!


This winter, the Sunshine Coast is anticipating the arrival of record numbers of whales into its waters. Between May and November, more than 20,000 Humpback Whales are expected to pass our shores, looking to make Queensland’s warm waters their temporary mating and birthing ground.

Whilst the Humpback whales are by far the most frequently sighted species, if you search hard enough, you may just be lucky enough to spot one of these other fascinating beasts!


Orcas prey on humpback whales, and are happy to travel long distances to areas where their prey is most abundant. With the large numbers of humpback whales visiting the Sunshine Coast’s waters, it’s only natural that orcas too would be attracted to the area. So look beyond the humpbacks, and you may spot a pod of orcas lurking nearby!


Dwarf minke whales migrate along Australia’s East Coast annually, before gathering at Northern Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef for a few months over winter. Smaller than the humpback, they are distinguished by their unique colourings, particularly its white pectoral flippers with black edging.

These whales will be passing through the Sunshine Coast between June and August, so you may get lucky and spot one on your whale watching tour!


The rarest of the four, the Southern Right Whale is currently considered endangered. However the good news is, their population is on the rise, and so too are sightings! They follow a similar migration pattern of the humpback and dwarf minke, visiting the Sunshine Coast’s warm waters over the winter months for mating and giving birth.

These playful and inquisitive animals have been known to swim right up to boats to check out what’s going on. They also like to put on a show with mum and baby performing acrobatics for amazed whale watchers!

Keep your eyes peeled whilst your out on your whale watching adventure, and you may just be lucky enough to spot all four!


Sunshine Coast Pelagic Bird Watching Trip August 2017

sunshinecoastbirds blog.

Humpback spy-hopping. Pic by Rick Franks
Prolonged, multiple and unusually close encounters with multiple Humpback Whales were the highlight of the pelagic bird watching trip off the Sunshine Coast on Sunday August 27, 2017. No particularly unusual birds were encountered due to relatively calm conditions, though winter records of Tahiti Petrel and Sooty Tern were interesting.
Humpback Whale
Hopes were high with a forecast of winds from the right direction (E-SE) at 15 knots as we departed Mooloolaba Marina at 6.35am on another clear winter day. A Sooty Oystercatcher on the rocks at the Mooloolah River mouth was unexpected. This was the second pelagic foray on our 17m boat, Crusader 1, operated by Sunshine Coast family company Sunshine Coast Afloat. The deep-hulled vessel ploughed effortlessly through a swell of up to 2m that had been whipped up by strong winds offshore in the preceding days.
Humpback Whale with calf
We spotted quite a few Humpback Whales on the way out and a couple of small groups of Hutton’s Shearwaters, along with the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters of the season. After a few stops we reached the shelf at 9.10am at 400m, 32 nautical miles offshore: 26.42.174S; 153.42.680E. We had an excellent encounter with a pod of Humpbacks in 300m and that set the pattern for the whole time we were out on the shelf, with whales frequently in sight and often venturing close to the boat. It is unusual to find Humpbacks out on the shelf and to see so many this day was quite extraordinary.
Providence Petrel
The first Providence Petrel soon appeared as began laying a berley trail and we were to have small numbers of these about while we off the shelf.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
Wilson’s  Storm-Petrel
Several Wilson’s Storm-Petrels put in an appearance along with a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Hutton’s Shearwater
A single Tahiti Petrel was unexpected at this time of the year. A couple more Hutton’s Shearwaters flew by.
Sooty Tern – Pic by Malcolm Graham
Two Sooty Terns were seen distantly and Crested Terns were constantly about the vessel. A Tiger Shark was seen to surface briefly.
Humpback Whale head’s encrusted barnacles
The Humpback Whale encounters got better and better with the huge mammals on several occasions swimming under the vessel in clear view. These interactions culminated in a superb performance by an adult female and attendant adult male which in unison spy hopped several times, raising their massive, barnacle-encrusted heads above the water within a few metres of the boat to check us out.
Humpback Whale – Pic by Rick Franks
The whales were so close that my prime 400 lens was of little use; thanks to Rick Franks for some of these images. It was as well that the whales put on a show because the forecast fresh south-easterlies did not materialise, with a gentle breeze struggling to reach 8-10knots despite the vigorous swell. After drifting 3 nautical miles eastward to 800m, we turned around at 12.45pm to head back.
Humpback Whale

We saw plenty more Humpbacks and more Hutton’s Shearwaters, some not far from shore. We managed reasonable views of most shearwaters and there did not appear to be any Fluttering among them.

Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins

We had a nice encounter with a large pod of Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin, including a small juvenile.

Brown Booby

We found a Brown Booby perched on a trawler as the winds picked up quickly, sharply and belatedly.

Eastern Reef-Egret

We returned to the marina at 3.40pm, spotting an Eastern Reef Egret perched incongruously by the swimming pool of a canal home. Again, all aboard were impressed by the comfort, space and amenities of Crusader 1, along with the enthusiasm of its crew.

PARTICIPANTS: Greg Roberts (organiser), Toby Imhoff (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Chris Attewell, Duncan Cape, George Chapman, Jo Culinan, Robyn Duff, Rick Franks, Malcolm Graham, Matteo Grilli, John Gunning, Jane Hall, Mary Hynes, Russ Lamb, Davydd McDonald, John Merton, Trevor Ross, Eske Ross, Jim Sneddon, Raja Stephenson, Ged Tranter, Jamie Walker, Chris Watts, Chris Wiley.

SPECIES: Total (Maximum at one time)
Providence Petrel 25 (5)
Tahiti Petrel 1 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 15 (3)
Hutton’s Shearwater 22 (6)
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 10 (2)
Brown Booby 1 (1)
Crested Tern 70 (20)
Sooty Tern 2 (2)
Pied Cormorant 2 (2)
Humpback Whale 80 (9)
Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin 25 (10)


As Whale Watching continues to grow as a tourism experience, the impact humans have and are having on whales is becoming both more apparent and yet at the same time in many areas less clear. Beached whales are an event that deeply touches everyone that hears about it, sees it, or is involved with. And as technology continues to “shrink” our world such events are becoming more and more known by more people. It is believed that whales have been beaching themselves since at least 300 B.C. but scientists are unsure if the increase is because more people are reporting it or if there is an actual increase in beaching’s. One thing is clear. A beached whale (or worse whales) create(s) a massive response from the public, and despite the obvious difficult situation will usually see enormous numbers of people doing everything possible to assist. Although there is still no clear cut explanation for why these beachings occur, the following 12 impacts are strongly believed to likely be at least partially the cause.

1) Injuries from collisions with boats, ships and other man-made obstructions.

As recently seen on the Gold Coast, Shark nets have an impact as do the many ships on the ocean with increased global trade, the opportunities for whales to collide with ships and become injured or disoriented causing them to accidentally strand themselves.

2) Water pollution

As our waterways are becoming more polluted, whales and other sea animals are suffering. They can become sick or poisoned from chemicals such as gas, plastics and rope in the sea as well as the daily waste products from everyday living.

3) Confusion due to man-made sonar

Some biologists and scientists think that whales may become disoriented, sick and confused by the use of man-made sonar which may interfere with a whales brainwaves causing the whale to lose its sense of direction and beach itself.

4) Natural diseases

Like any living creature, whales are susceptible to sickness or disease that may come about for an unknown reason or due to age.

5) Attacks from sharks or other marine mammals

Whales may beach themselves in an attempt to escape or find cover from shark attacks or attacks from other marine mammals such as the killer whale.

6) Poison from various aquatic species

While it is more difficult to find adequate information regarding whales being poisoned by other aquatic species it is definitely possible that a whale could become poisoned and disoriented causing it to swim to shore.

7) Changes or abnormalities in the earths magnetic field

Some biologists believe that abnormalities caused by changes in the earths magnetic field may interfere with a whales biological navigation causing it to lose its sense of direction

8) Pneumonia

Just as humans get Pneumonia so do whales and there are recorded cases of whales swimming to shore as a result of catching Pneumonia.

9) Traumas caused by various aquatic elements in the environment

While whales generally have a good sense of direction and are excellent swimmers there are some instances when a whale may collide with a large natural element (ie: a large rock) in its environment causing it to become injured and disoriented.

10) Changes in the weather and ocean caused by global warming

A common topic discussed today is global warming and its impact on the earth.

Changes in the tides, melting icebergs and shifting food sources such as fish may force whales to relocate and wander off course causing them to swim into shallow waters or possibly even beach themselves.

11) The whale has already died

The whale had died before beaching: Sometimes the whale is already dead when it becomes beached on the sea. It may have died naturally or from another cause. In some cases a whale may end up beached because it has already died and ended up washing ashore.

12) Following the pack

They are trying to help another whale: There is a theory that some whales beach themselves trying to find a whale who is crying out in distress because they have been beached. They try to follow their calls and end up in shallow waters or on the sand themselves Whales are very social creatures often travel in large pods or groups. In rare instances some pods or groups may unknowingly follow a sick or disoriented whale towards shallow waters and/or beaches where they can possibly get stuck in shallow water or end up beaching themselves. As stated earlier some of these theories are difficult to prove on a large-scale, however they are worth noting because each concept posses a possibility as to why whales beach themselves and is important for finding possible solutions to this problem, especially those that may be caused by the contribution of humans.

  • Noise pollution– As more and more artificial sounds enter the oceans atmosphere growing concerns are developing regarding the likelihood of man-made sounds affecting the hearing of various marine mammal species. These sounds may include sonar, loud jet engines and explosives among other noises.
  • Water pollution– Chemical pollution from oil and other toxic chemicals can have a dramatic affect on whale populations and affect their food supply. Poisoned fish could lead to sickness and death among the whales that consume these foods.
  • Collisions with boats – The increasing use of commercial/personal boats can lead to congested areas of water that may increase the chances of a whale being struck by a passing boat.
  • Overfishing– Areas that are being over fished could lead to shortages in food supplies which could forces the marine mammals to relocate or deal with having difficulties finding food.