‘Breathtaking’: Curious whale surprises swimmers
An inquisitive whale has given swimmers the experience of a lifetime after she spent two hours frolicking with them in the water - sometimes only centimetres away.
Guests of Sunreef's Swim with the Humpback Whales tour were eye-to-eye with the mature-aged giant humpback off the Coast of Mooloolaba.
Sunreef guide Jonny Fell said the encounter was the best he had experienced.
"She was just so curious and the way she exercised her spatial awareness was incredible, as she swam up, around and in between us," he said.
He said the extraordinary experience started even before they got in the water as the whale came up to the boat.
"Then when she moved off, we got into the water when she was about 150m away," he said.
"As soon as we got in the water, she came straight over to us and the adventure truly began.
"The whale was just so curious, swimming in and around us.
"She would swim underneath and turn, looking straight at us.
"The whale was so close, you could see her blinking at us, it was just incredible!"
Sunreef Mooloolaba owner Dan Hart said the encounter was among the top 10 since starting tours in 2014.
"This adult whale stayed with guests and our boat for about two hours in the end, and it kept circling around coming back again and again to get a closer look," he said.
"While we are all getting good at practising social distancing due to coronavirus, this whale definitely didn't get that memo, coming within 10cm of guests again and again."
While COVID-19 affected this year's whale watching season and Swim with Whales tours Mr Hart said it hasn't impacted the number of migrating whales swimming past our shores.
"While all of us humans have been restricting our movements, no one told the whales, so their migration is on track with other years," he said.
"This year will see an expected 35,000 humpback whales migrate through Sunshine Coast waters, which could attract about 25,000 people to take a closer look and participate in a whale watching or swim with whale's experience.
"We are already seeing good numbers of whales including some calves and expect this to continue throughout the season."
Sunreef is operating under a COVID Safe plan which includes additional cleaning and hygiene measures, reduced tour numbers and information for guests.
"This means whichever tour you choose, there is plenty of extra room to move around the boat and see the whales in a more intimate way," Mr Hart said.