Combine the sights of Sydney Harbour with an open water cruise through the entrance of Sydney Harbour to find the gentle giants of the sea.
Humpback Whales sightings have continued to increase over the last decade. In June and July these majestic marine mammals migrate north for breeding before returning south with their calves from September. Southern Right Whales do not migrate, instead move along the coast finding protected shelters for their young. Occasionally a mother and calf make Sydney Harbour their home for a short while and thousands of locals come out to wish them well.
Spotters on the land help to direct our certified whale watching cruises and also assist whale researchers by recording sightings and ensuring approach distances are strictly adhered to. Very rarely a whale is not spotted during the cruise. In this case your Whale Guarantee entitles you to another free morning cruise during the same season on a standby basis.
The approach distance for a vessel is 100m from a whale or 50m from a dolphin. When calves are in the pod, the approach distance increases to 300m from a whale or 150m from a dolphin. Helicopters must not get closer (in height or distance) than 500m to a whale or dolphin. Other planes must not get closer (in height or distance) than 300m to a whale or dolphin.
To the delight of passengers, whales and dolphins often approach the vessel. In these situations we are required to slow down gradually, stop and wait until the animal moves beyond the approach zone. Its the moments in between that make the cruise truly special.
Typical whale behaviour includes: Breaching, Spy Hop, Pectoral Fin Extension, Tail Slapping, Peduncle Slap, Tail Cocking, Tail Slash and Tail Swish, Pectoral Stroking and Pec Slapping all of which are explained on our About Whales - Whale Watching Guide.
What to bring
This is an open water cruise and you will experience sea motion. We recommend you eat lightly before and during the cruise. Travel sickness tablets are generally most effective if taken prior to the cruise. Please dress according to the weather - it will often feel colder at sea. Smoking is not permitted onboard.
Selection of soft drinks and snacks available for purchase onboard, subject to change.
We have a 95%+ success rate. The Whale Guarantee applies when a whale is not sighted during your cruise. Cruise again in the same season for free on Standby Basis confirmed 24 hours prior, subject to availability.
Passengers must complete a Contact Information form prior to cruising in case of emergency - submit online or download the form here & return by email to [email protected] after you have made your booking.
This Week's Predicted Comfort Levels & Weather
Waves, swell, winds & visibility can be very different outside the Harbour.
Reconfirmation & Cancellation:
As this is an open water cruise, names of all passengers and their individual contact details are required for each passenger. Cruises are subject to cancellation due to weather & other operational requirements. Please ring (02) 8062 3623 between 7.15am & 9.00am on the day of your cruise for the latest information. If your cruise is cancelled by us passengers may (1) rebook another Captain Cook Whale Watching Cruise in the same season or (2) seek a refund from the original place of purchase or (3) a credit can be made with Captain Cook Cruises towards another cruise within 12 months of original date of travel. If purchased through an agent, please refer to the agent’s terms &conditions.
Typical whale behaviour includes:
Breaching: A much more spectacular way of announcing its presence is for a whale to breach. With 2 or 3 beats of its huge tail the creature hurls itself up through the surface sometimes clearing the water completely, and then falls on its back with a tremendous splash. Breaching is thought to communicate position to others. The splash can be heard for several kilometres.
Calves: A humpback calf normally swims along in close company with its mother.
Head Lunge: When a whale breaks the surface and falls forward instead of backward the action is called a head lunge.
Spy Hop: Humpbacks are curious, and often pop their head up above the waterline to look around. The creature raises its head vertically from the water until the eyes are exposed, maintains that position for a short period of time and then lowers its head back into the water. This common behaviour is thought to be used mainly for orientating themselves with the shoreline during migration.
Pectoral Fin Extension: Humpbacks are often seen waving their huge oar-like fins above the water. The creature lies on the surface and lifts one or both of its pectoral fins up out of the water depending on body position. Once extended, the fins can be waved about.
Tail Extension: Sometimes humpbacks are seen with their tail flukes extended above the water for up to 15 minutes at a time. This behaviour is rare but could be to do with feeding, as a calf is often seen bobbing around its mother's tail at this time.
Tail Slapping: Whales like to lift their huge tails high above the water and slap them down on the surface making a tremendous splash. This can be heard for great distances by others and is probably associated with marking position. Because of the formidable power of the tail, this behaviour should be interpreted as aggressive and the creature should be given plenty of room.
Peduncle Slap: The peduncle is the muscular part of the body nearest to the tail flukes. It is used in a variation of the tail slap where the tail is slapped in a sideways movement like a massive karate-chop. This movement is a sure sign that the creature could become aggressive.
Tail Cocking: Tail cocking is another sign of aggression that is used when stressed. An aggressor can cock its tail up in the air and then bring it down heavily on an opponent in a disagreement over territory. Humans should keep well clear.
Tail Slash and Tail Swish: Two further movements of the tail involve slashing from side to side in the water and swishing on the surface to create turbulence. Both these activities are also associated with aggression. Crews of whale watching boats watch for these behaviours as signs to move away.
Pectoral Stroking: Pectoral fins are the equivalent of human hands. They are frequently used to stroke the body of another of the same species, probably during courtship and mating. Mothers and calves also stroke one another as a display of closeness.
Pec Slapping: The humpback has the largest pectoral fins of any of the great whales. The fins alone can weigh up to several tonnes! When brought down onto the water from the extended position they create a forceful splash which can be heard from quite a distance, both above and below the surface. Pec slapping is a common behaviour among humpbacks, thought to be used as a form of communication.
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