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Oz Whale Watching Review
This has been on our bucket list for a while. We couldn’t resist the Whale Watching Cruise with Meal cruise Groupon Deal with Oz Whale Watching whilst in Sydney for the weekend.
The deal had 52% off for a weekend cruise, coming in at $45 per adult for 4 hours out on the water with lunch provided. With a deal this good, we took a friend along with us for the experience.
The booking experience was instant and simple with all the instructions included on how to redeem the voucher codes from Groupon. The email confirmation came through straight away and when boarding the boat, all we needed was the lead person name. We bought additional drinks vouchers to use onboard, however, we probably didn’t need to as you’ll find out later in the post!
Hello from Biggles
Biggles introduced himself as our tour guide for the afternoon and was a significant part of this being a great unique experience. His passion and knowledge of both Sydney Harbour and the Whales gets everyone engaged and excited. His photo taking skills are fantastic too (and a good job as we didn’t manage to take many whilst out at sea!)
Before boarding the vessel, which is easy to find along King Street Wharf, Biggles could not emphasise enough that the weather conditions had turned against us.
We were all asked group by group if we were happy to jump on board given this warning, and if not, they would happily rearrange another cruise, for free, at a convenient time. However, like us, most of the other cruislings were only in Sydney for the weekend and had no alternative dates to rearrange to, so needless to say, we all got on board, sealegs or not!
The safety briefing was impressive, and regardless of the increasing swells, it was clear that Oz Whale Watching takes safety seriously under any conditions. Biggles gave us a few tips on how to deal with being onboard and reminded us where the back of the boat was in the case of feeling a little bit ‘unusual’!
Then we were off. There were great photo opportunities as you approach and cruise under the Harbour Bridge, taking in the views of Circular Quay and not missing the glamorous Sydney Opera House, undoubtedly one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. Sydney Harbour is so much better seen from the water and this was a perfect start to the cruise.
I was surprised at how Oz Whale Watching had kept the number of passengers onboard down to a minimum; they was room for more but numbers are capped. This is a great decision made by the company to ensure everyone has viewing room and that it doesn’t become an uncomfortable experience.
The boat has 2 decks, one fully enclosed downstairs and upstairs is partially closed and open. The food is served from the rear of the lower deck with plenty of chairs and tables for it to be enjoyed. Upstairs has more of a lounge feel than a dining room one, where the bar is situated opposite and several outdoor chairs and tables are available on the upper outer deck. The decor is minimal, which works when heading out to sea – no need to hang on to picture frames. But more importantly, it is clean, tidy and feels like the crew do take pride in their vessel.
On both decks, you are able to walk around the sides for better views, and on the lower deck, you can take a Titanic moment and head to the front! With it being quite a heavy boat, it purposely sits lower in the water for better stability, so just be careful of those waves, they tend to get you wet!
Lunch was served very quickly. As in immediately! Although initially shocked, it is understandable as they want it served before hitting the Harbour Heads when the seas would start to show what they are really capable of.
I was expecting an outside BBQ on show at the rear of the boat, instead, there was a range of bread rolls, salads, pasta, chicken and sausages served from hot plates from the galley. It was basic, hot with some added flavour, and gave everyone a stomach lining which some may, or may not have needed. ‘Less is more’ as Biggles reminded us.
It wasn’t long before we were approaching the Heads, and you could see the weather change ahead of us. This review isn’t to put anyone off, it’s just a true reflection of our experience. Would we do it again… absolutely! I would just take better waterproofs!
The 21-metre over-engineered catamaran, the ‘Jerry Bailey’ handled the 2-3 metre swells like a dream. Yes, we got wet, not just from the rain, and we had to hold on tight, judging when to move on the boat and when not to, but this all added to the experience. The team on board were constantly checking if we were ok. As we got out of the Harbour Heads, the fun began, all eyes searching for the first glimpse of our first Whale.
The first Whale spotted
The first spotted was a young Humpback Whale who seemed to shy away at first, but loved interacting with many of the Short-beaked Common Dolphins who were in the same path. It was amazing to see as they jumped about and played in the water. I’ve not seen these types of dolphins before who are much bigger, darker and have a striking colour contrast running down their bodies, different from the Bottlenose Dolphins we usually see in Adelaide.
There were 2 other Whale Watching cruises out at the same time and it was good to see that they were working with each other to get the best experience for those on board – as Biggles stated ‘Off the water they are competition, but on the water, they collaborate’. However, with 1 spotted Whale and 3 boats all trying to get the best view, there were a few moments of thinking ‘that boat is a little too close to us, especially in these conditions’.
However, we have the utmost respect for our skipper, Shaun who did an outstanding job of keeping us safe, and also confident that he was in control at all times. They were difficult conditions to be in and were a couple of times where we were side on to waves, but the catamaran just glided over them as if they weren’t there.
The roughness of the sea almost added to the experience that we were out there, in these giant mammals territory, living a part of their massive journey north in whatever conditions it throws at them. Surreal.
Biggles kept his commentary going throughout most of the cruise, including shouting out when another Whale had been seen. He also made it known that when he goes quiet, it’s because he is aiming to get that all-time best shot with his impressive 2-foot camera lens (ok it probably wasn’t that big but amazing how he’s not dropped it yet overboard).
He posts the photos to Facebook of each cruise that same night so you can jump online and see themselves. It was good to know in these conditions that we didn’t need to risk getting our camera out and very, no extremely, likely to lose it.
Patience is what won this experience
A good 90 minutes or so went by with a few more glimpses of fins, tails, blows and watching movements underwater as a Whale glides by when the other 2 boats called it a day and left for the Harbour. However, and this is what makes Oz Whale Watching different from the rest – Shaun, Biggles and the team wanted to, and had a sense that there was more to see. And they were absolutely right.
Patience paid off when we got to see a Humpback cow with what was described as the last session’s calf due to its smaller size. They were clearly visible and mesmerising to watch whilst we followed behind.
Oz Whale Watching make it clear that they don’t harass the Whales as a way to attempt for the Whales to behave in a different way, however, we were either welcomed by showing off, or attempted to be told to go away, as the mother breached unexpectedly close by.
Biggles had become so excited about the breach that he managed to get some amazing belly shots as he was just a little too zoomed in! But we were thankful as we can keep these as memories for something you only think you’ll ever see on TV!
This Humpback cow was probably in the region of weighting 35 tons so the amount of energy it must take for her to be able to come out of the water is immense. When you see TV or movie footage of Whales breaching, I always get the impression they had been slowed down for effect, but this is really what happens. It feels like they come out of the water in slow motion, then bang, there is an almighty splash and they are gone. We feel very lucky to have seen this at least once in our lives.
No one really knows the true reasons for Whales breaching, it could be a number of reasons given the situation, but at that point, it was called a day and we started to head back in.
Heading back to Harbour
On the way back in, we used our drinks vouchers, which turned out we were just using them instead of losing them. There was no way they could have served any drinks (apart from the free tea and coffee served) up until this point, so just something to bear in mind if you do buy some vouchers.
It was also evident at this point how many people had been seasick. We spent all our time upon the upper open deck with about 8 others who were actively spotting and getting glimpses of the Whales. As for the other 80%, unfortunately, the rough seas had got the better of them. It was a shame though, especially for most of the kids who won’t have got the most out of the experience.
Biggles continued his commentary through the heads and back into the harbour. His local knowledge is impressive and you can tell he loves sharing all that he has learnt over the years.
Back at the wharf, there were a few smiles to be back on land! With a very friendly farewell from all the crew, even though we were wet and cold, it certainly was an experience we will never forget.
Thanks Oz Whale Watching! Check out more details on their website.
Grab your Groupon Deal and head on your next adventure! Have fun, you won’t be disappointed. Remember, Whale Watching is in the winter session, so wrap up warm.
Water loving British girl who moved to Australia and seriously caught the travel bug! Loves to explore and share destinations that inspire others to spend more time on the water and in the great outdoors. Typically, you’ll find her on a boat or next to the ocean, often in a daydream!