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A Whale Of A Time: The Epic Migration of the Humpbacks

Every year in Coral Bay, from June until November, you could be lucky enough to see one of nature’s most incredible feats - one of the largest creatures on the planet, undertaking the longest migration of any mammal. The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) travels from the icy, rich waters of Antarctica all the way up the Kimberley, and back, every year - a journey of around 6670 kilometres (3600 nautical miles). Why do they travel so far? What are they doing off the Ningaloo Reef? And why are humpbacks so amazing anyway?

The warm waters of northwest Australia provide a safe, protected place for humpback mums to give birth to a whopping calf (weighing about 700 kilograms). For the next few months, they’ll be suckling & growing fast because they can’t stay in Australia’s tropical waters forever. While the Indian Ocean provides an awesome place for all the whales to visit, there’s just not enough food to sustain them year round. So every summer the entire population heads south to Antarctica to feed on krill (a small crustacean).

While they’re on this huge migration they’ll also be courting and breeding. This means that often the

male humpbacks are singing & if you dive underwater you may be lucky enough to hear part of the song. They’ll also be communicating using sound, including making huge splashes with their pectoral fins or tails, or even jumping right out of the water. They don’t always make it to the Kimberley before they give birth, and sometimes calves are born along the Ningaloo Reef. Scientists in Western Australia discovered that the mums often whisper to their calves to keep them safe from predatory orcas.

Humpback whales can reach 18 metres long and with their huge pectoral flippers and graceful diving behaviour they’re probably the best whale to watch. Since whaling ended around 50 years ago, the population has recovered from maybe 500 individuals to over 45000! This incredible conservation success story is a great example of what humans are capable of, and how nature can recover if we give it a chance. And, lucky for us, it means that now our coastal waters are a brilliant place to meet these whales.

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Book your Humpback Whale Swim Tour through Coral Bay Ecotours


Coral Bay Ecotours is a cruise company specialising in marine interactions with whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, turtles & more in the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park.

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