13 July 2012


My amazing trip planner, Nicola, found a whale watching trip that we could enjoy while we were in Sydney. Excited because the trip was part of the Captain Cook fleet, and even more excited when Captain Cook was there to greet us – dressed to the 1799s – we were ready to go!

The day before, we had seen a pod of dolphins while driving along the coast. Our personal tour guide, Andrew, just noticed a small crowd of people overlooking the water and said, “What is going on there? Oh look, there are dolphins.”

First we were impressed that he could even spot tiny dolphins in the water 50 meters or so below us and more than 200 meters in front of us. Then, beyond excited to see the dolphins, we found ourselves jumping out of Andrew’s tiny two-door in the middle of the road so that we could capture some photos.

Look how close the dolphins are to the surfers!

Another point in the day, we saw a whale off one of the beaches, which gave us hope for our spotting trip the next morning.

We arrived at Jetty Number 6 well in advance of our stated departure time and, aside from a couple rude people, enjoyed our free time before we boarded. We perused the local tourist-trap shops selling fake Uggs (I may get to that later), overpriced boomerangs and emu cream that, according to Nicola, made her wish she did not open a jar to sniff the stuff inside.

When we wandered back to our rendezvous point, I heard a squeal. Maybe it was a shriek. Either way, it was a high-volume, high-pitched sound followed by a very British, “Oh my God! It’s Captain Coooook!!”

Nicola, stalking the Captain

Nicola immediately wanted a photo with him – but not a photo containing the Captain and herself. No, she was brave enough to stalk him and then ask him to take a picture with her friend. So who has two thumbs and an awesome picture with Captain Cook himself? THIS GIRL!

This picture with Captain Cook was the second most exciting thing that happened during our three-hour tour of the Sydney Harbour and beyond. We joined 50 or so people aboard a smallish, dual-level boat and picked some seats on the outside deck. We were thrilled to see that upon our first movement out of the harbour, like magic, just gliding out from behind a shopping mall, the giant Sydney Opera House was revealed.

We coasted out to a serene area between North Sydney and downtown Sydney and the boat stalled as we waited. We were advised to look out for the spout of water from the whale’s blow hole and, within minutes, a person in a red coat shouted and pointed in the direction of the first pod. The real captain (sadly, not Captain Cook and not decked out in the same uniform), steered the boat in the direction of the distant whales.

We were then advised that the law prohibited any boats within 100 meters of identified whales – and that once the spray from the blowholes were spotted, the whales would be under the water, undetectable, for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. So we waited. And waited. And then I saw some whale spouts.

It was a little exciting, but I only saw whale spouts. No whales. Not even one whale tale did I see. Due to the number of people on board, the directionality of the boat and the fact that I am little (5’1” or 1.5 meters), I did not see the one out-of-water viewing when the whales came up for a big dive to the underworld.

Nicola was there, though. She stood on a bench and got some shots.

If you look closely at the spout and zoom in, you might see a tale.

The best way to describe the whale watching adventure would be to compare it to a game of Hide and Seek. The whales were hiding below the deep blue sea and we had to find them. When a spout of water was spotted, someone would yell, others would join in and all would point. The boat would creep in the general direction but, due to the restraining order, could only approach from beyond 100 meters. And then we just sat there for 12 to 18 minutes and waited to see another spout.

We followed two whales for the first 45 minutes and then, because three boats were in the area and only three boats are allowed to be in the vicinity of the whales at one time, we moved on to find some more. For the next two hours, we sat. And waited. And waited.

Nicola and I waited on the boat that rocked and rolled with the waves over and over and over again. We sat inside and watched person after person perform the walk of shame, meet us at the front of the boat and nonchalantly grab a seasick pack before making the turn and heading back down the runway.

The more we sat and waited, the more we wished we were back on land. We saw more people drop than whales surface. Kids were crying, adults were sleeping.

Four down.

People were laying down in their seats holding their bellies.

“This is not good dude.”

“You done? I’m done.”

“OMG can we get moving already?!”

These were all lines between Nic and myself. It doesn’t matter who said them because we were both thinking them. We just needed to get off that boat! We had better things to be doing. 

I was so antsy that I asked one of the staff members when we were expected back at the harbour. "One-fifteen," she replied. I nervously stared at my watch and seriously doubted her estimation. When we finally did move full speed ahead in the direction, I swear everyone perked up and life aboard the boat was renewed.

When we slowed again as we approached the harbour, I grabbed Nicola and made a motion to head downstairs. We were the first people off the boat and we bolted the minute we touched land. All we wanted to do at that point was find The Rocks and some Uggs. 

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