I've been a tour guide for Montague Island for many years, and the coordinator of the tours for about 8 years or so. I've witnessed some marvellous things travelling out and around Montague Island, especially to do with whales, and there's nothing better than sharing these experiences with people.
The 2010 southern Humpback Migration began as early as mid-August, with non-breeding whales still dawdling north being met by those heading south. Some days there were pods as far as the eye could see and many times Montague Island was literally surrounded by them. Through September and into October boat-based whale watchers could observe them feeding from not all that far offshore to out past Montague. Mid October saw the mothers and calves in close as well as larger whales offshore. November had mostly mothers and calves in close.
The charter boat fleet operating from Narooma ferried many people out to interact with these mighty mammals, and Montague Island Tours day visitors and overnight stayers had the added bonus of the Island’s nesting Gulls and Terns and evening penguin viewing to add to that special Spring feeling.
The last week or so has seen an increasing number of mothers and calves coming through. This makes for excellent shore-based whale watching. I cycled some of the Narooma-Dalmeny cycleway keeping up easily with one pair including a very agile calf. Then to cap it off I was the guide on a Montague Island Evening Tour which had a mother and calf that were both so energetic it makes one wonder how they cold make it down to Antarctica at this rate! Breaches, jumps, tail slaps and many of these were almost synchronised between the two!
About 10 boat minutes from Narooma’s breakwall there were 2-3 humpback pods within sight. We picked the middle area, turned off the motors and watched as 4 whales approached and went by busy feeding. We saw more pods to the north. By this time we had seen over a dozen whales!. East of Kianga was one whale breaching and maybe someone got lucky to snap the pic of the mid-air whale doing its half-roll flop back into the water. Off to Montague Island for seals, birds and historic lighthouse. Returning home to stop the motors about 1km off Narooma for two whales who held us hostage for 20 mins as we drifted with the wind and them while they fed sub-surface.
6.30am Bar Beach Narooma walking and the sun is rising under a dark cloud so the light is exceptionally bright and about 1-2km out first one then another silvery humpback spout lingers for quite some time in the still crisp air. More follow as the whole pod surfaces at once and I’m guessing about 5-6 whales. Great start to the day and just us to see it from this uncrowded part of the coast.
On the way to Montague today saw a pod just cruising about a km off the jetty. Lots of seals spread around the rocks. While up on the Island there was a lot of action to the east so we mounted the scope and could then see that a pod of 5 or 6 Humpbacks were obviously feeding, moving northwards at first then circling back around but basically not going anywhere. Their lunge feeding at the surface was interspersed with some acrobatics. Amazingly sometimes a couple of whales lunge feed like synchronised swimmers… are they talking to each other or is this a more economical way to feed?
Water was murky at the north end of the Island and probably laden with food.
Arrived home at 5pm in Narooma and was upstairs looking out the window and saw breaches out to sea about half way to the Island. Wow!
International Lighthouse Weekend just finished and the special half-price Montague Island tours proved very popular. Sat morn, Sat evening, Sun morn tours went out and all had humpback encounters, mostly of lunge-feeding whales out near the Island where there is a soupy mix in the water of purply-pink jellies. Little Penguins coming ashore for the evening trip!
Then today there were 2 pods near the Island on the way out, and on the way back a pod of 5 were lunge-feeding about a km west of the Island. Unconfirmed reports of Orcas in the Island’s vicinity this morning as well. All happening.
Travelling out to Montague Island from Narooma today and a humpback flipper-flapping attracted our attention about one km NW of the Island. The pod moved around to the Eastern side. Then a bonus pod halfway back towards Narooma during the return journey.
Monday August 16 2010 and I travel 15 minutes south to Mystery Bay and see 2 Southern Right Whales lolling around 300 metres out heading slowly north! Great sight. Meantime a southerly front is approaching darkly and out to sea underneath the front is a pod of Humpbacks and one of them is breaching repeatedly and the sunlight shines off the huge splashes making them easy to see. Further north is another pod and again further north and out towards Montague is a third pod!