Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale watching tours Gold Coast

Humpback Whales migrate along the east coast of Australia every winter and spring as they make an extraordinary journey from the ice of Antarctica to the tropical paradise of Far North Queensland. The journey takes place every year as over 37,000 Humpback Whales undertake the annual migration to ensure the success of the next generation of calves that will be born this year.

Species Information

Feeding in the waters of Antarctica during the summer months, Humpback Whales feast on an enormous quantity of 1-2 tonnes of Antarctic Krill per day. The nutrient rich waters of Antarctica enable the whales to put on large amounts of weight in preparation for their gruelling migration ahead. The change of season begins from Autumn onwards as the Humpback Whales begin preparation to leave the feeding grounds and start their journey northbound towards the breeding and calving grounds located off the east coast of Australia.

During late April to May the very first of the northbound Humpbacks have the Australian coastline in sight as they begin to arrive and the steady journey north towards the Great Barrier Reef is well underway by June. During the northern migration, males are actively courting and competing for the attention of the females and it is the peak of the breeding season during the winter months. Thousands of whales travel north in the coming months as the warmth of the Great Barrier Reef encourages the heavily pregnant females to seek its perfect nursery grounds during the winter months. The newborn calves will grow incredibly fast during their time in Far North Queensland and quickly put on good size and fat reserves which they will soon need to insulate them and keep warm on their fast approaching migration towards Antarctica.

Time To Head Home

A change of season is the call for the Humpback Whales to begin the journey back south, this time evading the increasing warmth of the tropics and moving back towards cooler waters. September onwards sights the beginning of the southern migration as the arrival of spring has the east coast Humpback Whales in a hurry to migrate back south in time for the beginning of the summer feeding season. The round trip from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef and back again will take the population 4-6 months to accomplish and a round journey of approximately 10,000 kilometres long.

A truly extraordinary migration that is sighted every year as the Humpback Whales complete an epic journey to ensure the survival of the next generation.

Scientific Classification

Megaptera novaeangliae

  • Size: 14 to 16 meters
  • Weight: Up to 45 tonnes
  • Diet: Antarctic Krill
  • Gestation: 10-11 months
  • Lifespan: 60 to 70 years
  • Feeding Grounds: Antarctica
  • Breeding Grounds: East Coast of Australia
  • Calving Grounds: Great Barrier Reef

Learn the Language of the Whales with Whale Watch Western Australia as we enjoy cetacean observation on a daily basis with the whales and dolphins of Western Australia. A whale must ensure conservation of energy if they are to survive and thrive in the challenging elements of a marine environment and that is why everything they do is for a very important reason. Surface activity especially is significantly energy draining and we must interpret the conversation at the time it is happening to understand the language the whales are looking to communicate.

There is an enormous variety of different surface activities and body language we can see when observing cetaceans and by carefully monitoring these behaviours during our interactions we understand the reasons behind their decisions. Understanding the Language of the Whales ensures that we are better able to observe behaviour and not influence behaviour during our interactions. The magnificent cetaceans of Western Australia light up our coastline with their conversations and it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to better understand their language, allowing us to respect our whales environment, culture and communities.


The breach is when a whale will lift its entire body clear of the ocean below, propelling upwards with anywhere from 50-100% of the whales body airborne. One of the most powerful behaviours, the breach sends a very loud and clear signal to all those in the vicinity of the breaching individual.

Head Lunge

Pushing upwards with momentum, the whale will then fall forwards as they land on their belly. Often a whale will also fill their mouth with seawater on the way up and open their jaw midway through the lunge so the water is flicked out of their mouths and over their back creating an impressive display and sound.

Peduncle Slap

Pivoting their head down and using both long pectorals for leverage, the whale will throw the lower half of its body including the peduncle and fluke upwards. This behaviour is also referred to around the world as a tail lob or tail throw.

Pectoral Slap

The long pectoral fin is lifted carefully above the surface before falling back down again, this behaviour is often repeated and can include a double pee slap where the whale lies on their back and lifts both pectorals at the same time.


Fluke Slap

Lifting the enormous fluke vertically upwards and then forcefully slamming back down onto the surface, the fluke slap or tail slap sounds similar to cannon fire as the flat part of the whales fluke sends repercussions heard kilometres away.


Inverted Fluke Slap

Belly facing to the sky and pectorals out wide for balance, the whale is now able to lift their fluke towards themselves and flick back onto the surface again. A behaviour often repeated and it can also follow after a peduncle slap.

Spy Hop

A curious behaviour where a whale will rise vertically through the water and lift their eyes closer to or above water level. Sighted amongst social pods and often when whales are interacting with vessels to allow for a better view around them.


A whale will move their fluke and body side to side, mimicking the movements of a snake. A behaviour often sighted when interacting with dolphins, when other whales move underneath them or clearing space around themselves.

A History of Whales on The Gold Coast

Queensland, the sunshine state of Australia and one of the most beautiful places in the world is ingrained in Australia’s culture as not only an extraordinary holiday destination but also a very special place to call home. The history of the Gold Coast dates back many years and was a very popular area for the local families and tribes to gather and meet. The immense growth of the Red Cedar trees were perfect for making boomerangs and many years later would be highly sought for the development of the shipping industry in Brisbane and beyond.

The growth of the timber industry through the 1800s started much development along the south coast of Queensland and the cedar trees became known as red gold due to the importance they played in the economy. The beauty of the region did not go unnoticed and Queensland’s Governor, Sir Anthony Musgrave and his family would often visit their holiday home on the Nerang River with its ocean views and cooling see breezes, the property was affectionately known as the Summer House.

The population of southeast Queensland continued to grow and as history had shown, the lifestyle found on the Gold Coast was the perfect destination for holidays and vacation retreats. Holiday homes, high-rises and further development continued and established Surfers Paradise as the playground of Australia. During this time the whales of Queensland were migrating north and south every winter and spring with the consistency of their migration encouraging the establishment of a whaling station. Tangalooma was chosen as the ideal location and following World War II the company Whale Products Pty Ltd was established and in June 1952 the very first whales were caught and processed at the facility.

Over 150 men worked 24/7 during the five month seasons and the curiosity of many was drawn to the station with boatloads of tourists joining excursions to see the flensing process and watch as enormous sharks patrolled the haul up ramps. The early 1960s sighted a decline in the Humpback Whale population off the east coast of Australia and coincided with the beginning of other energy reserves being discovered. The use of whale products was no longer required and with only 68 whales captured in 1962 compared to 600 whales in their first season, the Tangalooma Whaling Station was closed.

Humpback Whales are now a protected species and have slowly recovered since the late 1960s, growing from only 500 individuals to an estimated population of 37,000 whales today. Times have changed and it is a true joy to witness a now robust, healthy population of Humpback Whales taking over the coastline of Queensland every year on their annual migration. Tourists and locals alike still gather to see the whales, but now they are observing them in the wild and at their most magnificent. The history of Queensland is vast and the whales of the east coast are interlocked with this history. Today we have the opportunity to spend time with the members of this resilient population who have grown from near extinction and surged back to over 37,000 Humpback Whales in just over fifty years.