The start of our 2023 Humpback Whale Watching season was been quite different to past years where, at this time of the year, we usually see quite a lot of bulls making their way north and in a hurry.

This year we have seen so many Mum’s and calf’s, and some only a few days old.

They still seem to be travelling north but we are not sure how far they will continue their journey.  Possibly to Hervey Bay.

Watching a mother and it’s baby that is so young that the mother has to continually

lift it’s head up so it breaths is such a special moment.  The devotion of a mother.

The mother is usually rather still & quiet in these moments either feeding or assisting the baby.  This is called logging as they look like a log in the water.

Whales are voluntary breathers and cannot sleep as we do. Scientists believe they rest part of their brains through logging while the active portion of their brain keeps them aware of the environment.





What does the latest science and research reveal about Humpback whales?

“Megaptera novaeangliae” or the Humpback whale, has definitely increased in numbers on its migratory path past the Sunshine Coast, but what do we know about these creatures and how?

They are probably the most watched and well studied species of whale. With a group of dedicated students and marine biologists joining Crusader 1 every whale watching season, we are able to assist with this research program.

Dr. Olaf Meynecke from “Humpbacks and Highrises”, along with many organisations all over the world, are contributing to the growing body of research, conservation and management of these majestic creatures.



A variety of methods has been used in the past to study whale biology, ecology and evolution. Boat surveys study distribution and habitat use, but they are not reliable 24/7, whereas photo identification helps recognise individual whales by their unique serrations and patterns. Just as Migaloo isn’t hard to spot, so too, thousands of whales have now been tracked using their distinct features.  Because humpbacks are so active in their “surface behaviour”– leaping clear out of the water, flipper and tail slapping – they are easily photographed and identified from year to year.


Satellite tagging and time-depth recorders

Satellite tagging and time-depth recorders are other methods (attaching small devices that send the whales’ GPS position to satellite receivers) which allowPreview researchers to track their movement, behaviour and migrations over a long period of time. Using time and distance between different transmitted positions, scientists have been able to determine when and where whales are swimming quickly and where they slow down to feed, rest or socialise. Time–depth sensors can measure the depth and duration of whales’ dives and provide important information on their feeding locations and behaviours. Whereas acoustic monitoring is useful when they cannot be visibly observed. Underwater microphones called hydrophones can be used to detect and record whale vocalizations or song.


Genetic sampling can also be used to collect data 

Using a hollow tipped dart that collects a small plug of skin and blubber from the whale the sample can help determine the sex and relationship it has to other whales in the group. It can recognise whether it is a parent, offspring or sibling and whether the group are related to a Previewneighbouring pod or whether they comprise a discrete or isolated population.

Through the use of such devices, some amazing new discoveries have been documented. Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist, using satellite tags has collected evidence to prove that whales migrate from the cold Antarctic seas so they can moult and therefore avoid the build up of potentially harmful bacteria on their skin. . “You can track humpback whales migrating up Australia’s eastern coast just by following the trail of raining epidermal cells they’re shedding,” Pitman says.


Other forms of research

Dr Vanessa Pirotta, a Macquarie University Marine Biologist has used a waterproof drone fitted with a petri dish to collect samples from humpback’s snot to do health checks and even identify if whales are pregnant, based on blowhole sprays. By collecting these fresh samples, rather than those from stranded or dead whales, is proving to be more effective, non invasive and safer.

Cameras on the backs of baby humpbacks have now captured a rare glimpse of mothers nursing their calves – a sight rarely visible on the surface. In addition to a camera, the suction-cup tags also carry an acoustic recorder, depth sensor and accelerometer, which together, collect data on the behaviour, movement and breathing patterns of the whales.

And in the latest research that relates to climate change, Antarctic scientists are looking at the role whale poo plays in keeping ocean acidity levels low enough to allow marine life to survive and thrive. It seems that whale faeces helps absorb carbon dioxide on the sea bed and might help keep acidification in check.

The specialist equipment, constant monitoring and highly experienced personnel are all part of the whale watching season here on the Sunshine Coast. Their research plays a major role in helping to determine more knowledge about these majestic creatures as well as how best to protect and conserve the whales that visit how waters.

If you’d like the chance to experience the magic of humpback newborns playing alongside their parents this whale watching season, and also the older humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, feel free to give us a call on 0412 155 814 or email us on –  You can also book online if you wish.



Are you singing with joy post covid crisis and rejoicing in the easing of restrictions?

Well, it won’t be long before the giant humpbacks will be joining us in song.

The Sunshine Coast offers amazing opportunities to see these “marine composers” up close and personal.  With many breaching, waving and singing inshore. Famous for their underwater communication, humpback sounds have been described as a combination of moans, grunts, blasts and shrieks.

Their songs are the longest and most varied in the animal world.  Australia’s humpbacks communicate further than any other whale on earth. But we can’t hear all of their majestic sounds. At least 34 different vocal sounds have been identified ranging from low frequency (20Hz) to typically 3000Hz (like a bird chirp) and occasionally as high as 8000Hz.   We can only sense sounds between 150 and 16000Hz so many low frequency noises are out of our range and yet they have no vocal cords. Humpbacks produce these sounds by moving air back and forth through body passages.

Experts believe their complex sounds are used mainly for sexual display rather than simply for joy or personal satisfaction. They are relatively quiet in summer but during winter migration and breeding activities, they sing long patterns of sound.  Only the male of the species, sings.  So when the whales reach here next month, there should be plenty of singing in anticipation of mating en route.

Marine biologist Philip Clapham has described whale song as “probably the most complex in the animal kingdom.” It is made up of a series of repeated themes which can last up to 30 minutes long and some sing for hours at a time. They can be heard kilometres away, both underwater as well as above the surface. An interesting new discovery has found that while all males in a group will sing the same song, note for note, whales change their song as they travel.

Originally, it was believed that humpbacks would only sing the one song, but it has been found that as they migrate, their song changes at different locations and from year to year. As they travel, they change their song to match those coming from other nearby whales.  That way, all males in a certain population will sing the same local song.  Indeed, Indian Ocean humpbacks sound very different to Pacific Ocean humpbacks or those in the Atlantic.

There are still many unanswered questions about their song, but let’s hope we get to enjoy many of their voices this whale watching season.

If you’d like the chance to experience the magic of humpback newborns playing alongside their parents this whale watching season, and also the older humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, feel free to give us a call on 0412 155 814 or email us on –  You can also book online if you wish.



Adolescent Whales

The adolescent (juvenile) stage runs from the moment the calf is weaned to when it reaches sexual maturity.

Once weaned, juveniles start to mix with whales of the same age and gender. Male juvenile whales will form bachelor pods and leave their original pod. They will start searching for sexually mature cows, female whales, with whom to mate. Female juveniles also start exploring outside their pod, but they are more likely to return to their mother.

Adolescent humpbacks begin to travel with other groups or in pairs. Before they begin mating, their lives largely consist of feeding and no doubt playing. They eat by filter feeding through their baleen plates. Preying primarily on small fish, plankton, and krill, the average humpback whale consumes 2000-2500 kg of food per day. Sometimes, whales in pods will hunt using a technique known as the “bubble net,” in which bubbles slowly released from their blowholes form a “net” to gather their prey.

Adult Whales

The adult whale stage starts when the whale reaches sexual maturity.  Around 6-10 years of age, a humpback whale becomes sexually mature, ready to start breeding. Males at reproductive age are between 12 and 16 meters in length. Females measure roughly 14-15 but may grow as large as 18 meters!

To attract a mate, male humpbacks display their prowess through breaching, blowing bubbles, singing, and occasionally clashing with other males. Once a pair has decided to mate, they will swim together and move in motions like diving and rolling that resemble a playful courtship.

Breeding often takes place seasonally while migrating to warmer waters and that is what we are seeing of the beautiful mammals.  This ensures their calves will be born in the warmer temperatures compared to what they are used to.  Both genders start looking for mates to breed with.

The baby whale is born about a year later on their next migration up the coast.  Adult female humpbacks do not give birth every single year, but typically every two or three years.

Mating also takes place every two to three years for the cow as her gestation period lasts for between 10 and 14 months.

Males produce a “song” which can last between 10-20 minutes.  They repeat this for hours at a time.  All the males in the group sing the same song for that season.  A new “song” is produced the following season.  It is not clear, but scientists think the song could be part of the mate ship.

If you’d like the chance to experience the magic of humpback new-born’s playing alongside their parents this whale watching season, and also the older humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, feel free to give us a call on 0412 155 814 or email us on –  You can also book online if you wish.



We are very lucky to have the Humpback Whale Highway go straight past us here on the Sunshine Coast and the ability to see the whales throughout July to the end of October as they head up north and back south as part of their migration.

Whale Watching has become one of the Sunshine Coasts most popular ocean activity through our winter months.

Because knowing what weather conditions are best for whale watching can help you better prepare for your tour experience, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about how the weather impacts whale watching.

What is the best weather to be going Whale Watching on the Sunshine Coast?

Humpback Whales have a natural flow of resting and activity that is not affected by the time of day or by changes in the weather.

The weather impacts us more than it does them.  Our comfort, visibility and ability to move around the boat easily are all considerations when heading out Whale Watching.

We do tend to see a little more surface activity when the weather is not perfect, those glassy conditions.

Whales seem to travel solo a lot as they head north and on their way back south we find they are with their young and sometimes a male escort and competition pods which are groups of bulls competing for the attention of the female for mating purposes.

Whale Watching with clouds and rain

Don’t let a cloudy or rainy day keep you from going out whale watching. Sometimes a cloudy day is the best whale watching weather. The whales don’t care if it is raining.

It sometimes helps to remember that our Humpback whales spend much of their time in Alaska so they are used to cooler waters, a little wind and rain.  As much as our water temperatures are colder for us, the Humpback Whales love the warmer conditions as they have come from freezing conditions.  We simply suggest bringing a poncho or jacket to keep dry and warm.

All our cruises are dependent upon suitable ocean conditions. We do not cancel based on forecasted rain. Unless it is very heavy rain which of course affects visibility and our ability to find and follow whales. The factors that influence when a cruise is cancelled are based upon the wind strength and direction and the swell height and direction.

Whale watching during thunderstorms

If the weather and rain are forecast to be severe, or there are thunderstorms, we cancel and reschedule our guests. Thunderstorms have a risk of lighting and being on the water with that risk is not safe.  Our forecasts are based on Marine weather which can be different to land based predictions.  Safety and comfort are paramount and when it comes to whale watching, our top priority is about having a fun, positive whale watching experience.

Always book your whale watching tours at the beginning of your vacation in case the tour has to be rescheduled due to weather.  That way, you have the ability to move your trip and don’t miss out on your whale watching excursion.

If you’d like the chance to experience the magic of humpback newborns playing alongside their parents this whale watching season, and also the older humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, feel free to give us a call on 0412 155 814 or email us on –  You can also book online if you wish.




The Humpback Whale, is the most popular whale we see here off the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland.  As part of their migration from down south, they head north towards the Whitsundays to mate and have their babies.

The whales usually travel in small groups called pods. They also fast for the whole journey which can take several months.

The males begin competing with one another for the right to mate with the female. Their actions can include anything from vocalising their desire to mate to performing acrobatic feats such as lunging and leaping out of the ocean, slapping their tails and flippers against the water and charging at other male whales.

After a male establishes his dominance and mates with the female other male whales may continue to challenge one another to try to mate with the same female whale.  It is not uncommon for a female whale to mate with several male whales during a single season as most species are not monogamous.

When mating season ends the whales make the long journey back to their feeding grounds where they restock on food.


The female whales gestation period (the period from conception to birth) is anywhere from 10 – 18 months.  Calves  (baby whale) are nursed until they are a year old and about 8m long.  On average a female whale will bare a single offspring once every 1 – 6 years while she is fertile.

During the gestation period the baby whale develops and grows in the mothers uterus and is fed nutrients and blood through an umbilical cord.

Whales are mammals and have live births just like humans.  Upon birth the baby whale is usually delivered tail first in order to prevent the possibility of drowning.

Calves are about 5m long at birth and weigh 1.5 tonnes. The cow’s milk has a high fat content (35% compared with 2% for human milk) and milk production can be up to 600 litres a day. Humpback Whales are mammals and drink mothers milk from birth. The female Humpback Whales milk is rich in fat with up to 60% of the milk being fat. The consistency is thought to be is similar to toothpaste.

A suckling calf increases its weight five to eight times during 11 months. The calf develops a protective layer of blubber so it can follow its mother back to cold Antarctic waters. Mother/calf pods often have an adult male escort.

Birth & Baby

The ‘baby’ stage runs from birth until the calf is weaned, during which time the calf frequently nurses on the mother’s nutrient rich milk.

The whales eat by nursing from their mum for about six months. The mum produces milk using her mammary glands, which the baby whale can suck on for food.  Each baby needs about 45.4 litres of milk per day to live!  That’s huge.

The calf is brought to the surface by it’s mother, for it’s first breath of air and from then on begins to swim and act like a fully grown whale.

To look out for a feeding calf, you will find the female Humpback usually stays underwater while the calf returns to the surface every few minutes to breath between feeding.

Suckling may continue anywhere from 6 months to 2 years or more until the child is fully able to separate psychologically and/or due to the mother no longer producing milk.


If you’d like the chance to experience the magic of humpback newborns playing alongside their parents this whale watching season, and also the older humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, feel free to give us a call on 0412 155 814 or email us on –  You can also book online if you wish.












The whale watching season in Queensland runs from early-mid June and ends late October.  We at Sunshine Coast Afloat start our Whale Watching Cruises in July, once we know the whales are here in larger numbers and we are not spending a lot of our cruise time searching for them.

Like any activity that is venturing into an uncontrolled environment, all sightings and action on the day is governed by the whales themselves and if they want to play.

Humpback whales in Queensland have one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal.  We are talking 5,000 km, over three months each year.  They swim north to birth their calves and teach them life skills, before returning south to chilly Antarctica.

Humpback whales might be marathon swimmers, but they are not sprinters, clocking up a leisurely 5-15 km/hour on their migration north.

The season brings something different depending on the time of your visit.  The whales journey: –

Between July to September is when mating takes place, and it is a great time for whale watching as the males often but on great displays of beaching and fin and tail slapping to impress potential mates. Males have also been known to gather in groups in order to sing to and attract females.


June – July                        –  The whales tend to be out wide and on a mission to get up north so we don’t see a lot of them from shore.  It is the last year’s mothers and calves and the immature whales that reach Queensland waters first, followed by the mature whales then the pregnant females.

August – September     –   Pregnant females give birth to their babies in the warm northern waters.  Newborn calves start learning how to survive and communicate – mugging, spy hopping, tail slapping.  This is an ideal time to be viewing all this action.  Whales heading south begin to arrive in our waters. The mature whales arrive first, with some still courting and mating.

Mid-September–October — The mothers and new calves arrive. This is a great time to go whale watching if you want to spot a beautiful baby humpback swimming along and suckling with its mother.  We see lots of breach action as the calves master their new moves.  More pod formations, at least mother and calf and possibly a male escort.

November – January    –  The whales head back to the Antarctic, first the pregnant females, then the immature whales, followed by the mature whales, and finally the mothers and calves. They feed on krill and stock up on blubber to enable them to sustain their next annual migration north.

February  – March         –   The normal sequence of events is that last year’s mothers and calves head off first, followed a couple of weeks later by the immature whales, then a couple of weeks later by the mature males and females.

April                                    –  The pregnant female whales follow the others after having fed for longer to support themselves and their young throughout the journey.

The average human baby might weigh 3.5kg, but the average humpback whale calf weighs over 900kg!

The whale migration isn’t just interesting for visitors, but researchers too, who’ve been studying their behaviours closely and we are lucky enough to be part of the ongoing research, having scientists and researchers from Humpback & High-rises on board who are more than happy to share their findings with our guests.

If you’d like the chance to experience the magic of humpback newborns playing alongside their parents this whale watching season, and also the older humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, feel free to give us a call on 0412 155 814 or email us on –  You can also book online if you wish.




Here are some fun facts to school you up on these magnificent creatures!

There are thought to be roughly 40,000 humpback whales in the world. With half of these expected to glide through the Sunshine Coast’s waters this winter.


  • 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 so don’t stay above the water for that long.
  • 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 so can devour up to 1800 kgs 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.

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

Hope you’ve enjoyed these fun facts and if you want to learn more, head over to our website: –




This winter, you might just be lucky enough to see more than “just” humpback whales visiting the Sunshine Coast during this winter’s migration.

The Sunshine Coast is once again anticipating the arrival of record numbers of Humpback Whales for their annual migration. Between May and November, over 20,000 Humpback Whales Migrate past our shores. These Whales are 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 during the migration time,  you may just be lucky enough to spot one of these other fascinating whales.

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 visiting our shores, 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!


Dwarf Minke whales migrate along Australia’s East Coast annually as well.  Gathering at the Great Barrier Reef for a few months over winter. Smaller than the humpback, they are distinguished by their unique colouring’s, 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!


  • Dwarf Minke Whales are smaller than the humpback, but can still grow up to 8 metres in length
  • They are distinguished by their unique colouring’s, 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 rarest of the four, the Southern Right Whale is currently considered endangered. However, 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!


  • 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 crustaceans.
  • 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.
  • Southern Right whales are fairly active and can be seen performing acrobatics in the water
  • They’re a very social, 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.


Until next season!

Our #whale watching season has come to an end, and we have waved goodbye to the Whales for another season!

We would like thank everyone who has joined us on our tours this year, and hope it was a highlight for you.

As you know, we only operate in “Peak” season so we are cutting it off now and are grateful for all the wonderful experiences we have been able to share with our guests.  We had received the most wonderful testimonials and recommendations so hopefully we can have you back on board next year.

A big “Thank You” to all our passengers, our hard working crew and of course the thousands of whales who called past Crusader 1 to say hello or goodbye.

Wanting one last look at one of our trips: –

We now look forward to being able to help you celebrate the year end with corporate Cruises, Christmas Cruises, Mooloolaba Christmas Light Canal Cruises and of course the big Boat Parade held on 22nd December.   If you are interested in any of these check out our cruises on or call Paddy on 0412 155 814 to find out more.