It’s Whale Watching season along the Great Ocean Road, the perfect destination for a trial run with our new Ford Ranger to see how it tows the van. So we packed our winter woollies and headed for Warrnambool.
‘Surfside Holiday Park’ is right on the beach, has large sites, clean amenities, pet friendly, a short walk over the sand dunes to the beach, right next door to the surf life saving club and patrolled beach as well as a very nice cafe/restaurant with fabulous views. (Being the middle of winter we didn’t venture into the water). There is also a fabulous bike path that runs along the foreshore. “Warrnambool’s award winning foreshore promenade is a wonderful 5.7km path that stretches from the breakwater along the coastline to the Hopkins River mouth”. The promenade / bike path feeds onto the 37km rail trail from Warrnambool to Port Fairy which skirts around the northern side of a 25,000 year old extinct volcano, now the Tower Hill State Game Reserve. The crater is home to native animals and has many walking tracks.
Each year between May and October, Southern Right Whales stop off at Logan’s Beach, Warrnambool to give birth and rest their calves for about a month before journeying on. Known as Victoria’s Southern Right Whale Nursery, extensive Whale Viewing Platforms have been constructed on the cliffs at Logan’s Beach giving a wonderful vantage point for viewing these amazing creatures. On the horizon we saw evidence of humpbacks travelling past, or so we were told by the local whale watchers. To an experienced observer they can be identified by the shape of the plume of water they blow into the air, which is due to the shape and spacing of their two blowholes. Humpback whales blow a tall column shaped plume while Southern Rights blow a V shaped plume. To us they just looked like small white streaks on the horizon.
However, the Southern Right mothers had other ideas about where to have their babies and had gone to Portland instead. Two days ago a mother had calved in Portland Bay, another popular birthing place for these majestic animals. Portland is about a 90 minute drive from Warrnambool by car, not sure how far by whale, so we headed off to take a look. According to ‘Portlanders’ more whales come to Portland to calve than Warrnambool. Anyone staying at ‘Henty Bay Beachfront Holiday Park’ would have had a wonderful view of this mother who was only 200mtres from shore. We might stay there next whale season.
Most coastal towns ‘Visitor Informaion Centres’ update whale sightings on their websites, so check them out to find the best place to find them.
Fun facts about Southern Right Whales;
They don’t have a dorsal fin, their heads are one quarter of their body length,
Adults grow to 18 metres long and 80 tonnes (that’s a 4 metre long head),
Calves are born about 1.5 tonnes and 6 metres long,
Gestation 12 months,
Weaning age 12 months,
Calves drink about 200 litres of milk per day
Sexually mature at 10 years of age
Males have the largest testes in the animal kingdom, each pair weighing 1 tonne.
Females reproduce every 3 years,
Cruising speed 3km/h, but can reach 10km/h for short periods of time
Life span historically 50 to 70 years; but whales born today have a life expectancy around 15 years, owing in part to ship strikes
“They were named by whalers in the 17th century because they were the ‘right’ whale to catch: they were slow-swimming, swam close to the coast, floated when dead, and provided large amounts of valuable products – particularly oil for illumination and lubrication”.
“In 2000, based on data from a genetic study of DNA samples from northern and southern right whale populations. Genetic evidence now clearly demonstrates that the northern and southern populations of right whale have not interbred for between 3 million and 12 million years, confirming the southern right whale as a distinct species”.
Here is the video we took of the mother whale at Portland Bay.
While in the area we visited Nigretta Falls, about 120 km inland towards the Grampians. (we walked down the wooden steps and up the old stone steps that go straight up the side of the cliff, and soon realised how out of shape we are.
and Wannon Falls (which has free overnight camping). Both falls are close to each other on the Wannon River; last time we visited there was only a trickle of water.
Warrnambool Art Gallery, WAG, has its own version of the Archibald Prize, the ‘Warrnambald Prize’. Local artisits paint portraits of local celebrities.
WAG also has a piece by Bendigo artist Sam Jinks who works with silicon, resin, human hair and fur. We have seen his work in the Shepparton Art Gallery and the McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park. Each piece I find beautifully unnerving in its realism. Each time I find myself watching, waiting for them to move or take breath. This piece was so small (64 X 62 X 23 cm), but so life like.
Cheers for now
Helen and Tim
This entry is in loving memory of our Jack Russell, Homer, 4.11.2000 – 18.7.2016 . The best little dog ever. Sadly missed.