The Hervey Bay Guide to Whale Watching

picToday I’m thrilled to welcome Jacinta Padgett, an environmental scientist with a passion for environmental education.

Jacinta’s recently started blogging at  Diary of an Eco Traveller and is here to talk all-things-whale-watching!

If you ever get the chance to go whale watching, the one place you definitely need to be is Hervey Bay. Located approximately 300 km north of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, Hervey Bay hasn’t earned the reputation for being the whale watch capital of the world for nothing.

Every year, between July and November, thousands of humpback whales make their way into the calm, protected waters on the western side of Fraser Island known as Platypus Bay. This is where the whales stay and play on their way back to Antarctica, after spending the winter months up north to mate and give birth to their calves. This is also where the most amazing wildlife encounter you may ever possibly have in your life will happen. I know that’s a big call, but it’s true.

Imagine a fully grown humpback whale sidling up to your boat, rolling over and looking you straight in the eye! Or being so close that you feel as though you can virtually reach out and touch them (you’re not allowed to do that, by the way).

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I’ve been whale watching plenty of times before – in fact I still can’t believe that I used to get paid to do it – and I still get a rush of adrenaline each and every time I see them. It’s a fantastic experience, and one that keeps me (and plenty of others) going back again and again.

Whale watching in Hervey Bay is unlike anywhere else, and it is certainly something you will undoubtedly remember for a very long time. Before you head off on your adventure though, there are a few things you need to know. With that in mind, here is Hervey Bay’s comprehensive guide to whale watching:

1. You need to leave your inhibitions on the mainland
Humpback whales are curious creatures. To draw their attention you need to make yourself interesting to them. What does that mean, I hear you ask. Well, basically you need to wave your arms around like your life depends on it and make lots of noise. They love that.

If you are a bit shy and reserved, just remember that you will more than likely never see the people you are on the boat with again. If you make a fool of yourself in front of them will it really matter? No, it won’t and you’ll have a much better time for it. And they’ll all be doing exactly the same thing anyway.

2. You should wear a good pair of walking / running shoes
You will do A LOT of moving around the boat, and will more than likely engage in a game of what I like to call humpback hide-and-seek! If you are not familiar with the rules of this game, they go something like this: the whale swims under the boat, everyone on board hurries across the deck to the other side waiting for it to appear. The whale briefly comes up for air, then dives down again and swims back under the boat, popping up on the other side.

Everyone dashes across to see it. The whale then dives down and swims underneath the boat … and so on and so forth. I’m sure you get the picture.

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3. You may get mugged
The whales will often approach vessels and stay close, interacting with the people on board for significant periods of time (see previous point re: humpback hide-and-seek). This thrilling behaviour is known as ‘mugging’.

Who would have thought you could be mugged by a whale! And enjoy it!

4. The whales will be watching you, as much as you are watching them
Anecdotal evidence suggests that over the past few decades whale behaviour around boats within Hervey Bay has changed. During the early days of whale watching, whales would shy away from vessels. Females in particular would put themselves between the vessel and her calf. Now the story is completely different.

Indeed, it is often a case of ‘who is watching who’.

Females will now push their calves toward excited whale watchers. Having a 40 tonne whale showing you her calf is certainly awe-inspiring, and something you will remember for a long time to come.

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5. You may get covered in whale snot!
It is not pleasant, but it makes for a great story to tell your friends and family.

The ‘blow’ is usually the first thing whale watchers see. It is the exhalation of air, mucous and carbon dioxide from the whale’s lungs. As it is released, water vapour condenses and forms a misty spray.

While the whales are swimming alongside your boat they will be constantly coming to the surface to breathe. If you are unfortunate enough to be leaning over the side of the boat when they do just that, you will end up with a face full of whale snot! I speak from experience when I say it is disgusting and smelly if it happens to you. But is absolutely hilarious if it happens to someone else!

Regardless of whether or not you follow the suggestions I’ve outlined you will no doubt have a fantastic time with the whales, and will walk away with wonderful memories of some absolutely amazing animals.

I highly recommend spending time with them. It is something you will not regret. I promise.

Ed. For details of whale watching tours check out… Visit Fraser Coast.

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Local profile – Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay

As an avid reader and lover of books it’s a no-brainer that I adore bookshops. I particularly love that they’ve morphed over the years and become so much more than places you buy books. Not only can you enjoy coffee and snacks, but many create a wonderful sense of community and promote a love of reading and books to future generations.

Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay (MRHB) does exactly that. I first met owner Cate Akaveka when I attended an author event not long after she purchased the store and was impressed with her obvious love of reading and passion for sharing that with others.

MR collage

Cate and her husband moved to Hervey Bay from Sydney in 2001. Her oldest (of two boys) was a baby and they were keen to move out of the city and try a different lifestyle.

Cate bought Mary Ryan’s in August 2013 after leaving the state government. She was keen to invest in something which would keep her employed and when she found out that Mary Ryan’s was for sale she knew it was karma. Or kismet. Or similar. 😉

“I knew right away that it was the right business for me and I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I think I love pretty much everything about owning a bookstore.”

Cate really liked the staff and was very happy when they all agreed to stay on after she purchased the business.

Cate says she’s always been a passionate reader and still has a lot of books from her childhood.

“My mother said she always knew what I was reading because I would become the lead character. I guess I was Anne of Green Gables for a significant amount of my childhood!”

I follow the MRHB Facebook page and am often agog and the myriad of activities on offer.

They have a couple of book clubs—including one for teenagers—which meet monthly. There’s a French conversation group that meets one Saturday each month. And on the first Saturday of each month, there’s a get-together called Coffee, Tea, Philosophy.

It’s a group Cate started because she really wanted to have some meaningful and thought-provoking discussions about things that matter. Fortunately, a few other people felt the same way and this group has now been meeting for over 12 months. Newcomers are always welcome, so it’s something I’m pencilling into my diary!

On top of all of the regular activities I also love the author events on offer.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some great authors at the shop including Brooke Davis, Inga Simpson and Josephine Moon. My favourite author event was with William McInnes last December. People are still talking about it!”

mary ryan hervey bay

Cate says these events are her favourite part of the job.

“I like to see Mary Ryan’s as more than a retail outlet, but rather an integral part of the community. I think it works because a lot of our customers feel like family and seem to enjoy a ‘sense of belonging’ when they come in.”

MRHB’s cafe is always busy and Cate suggests the that’s because the food and service are consistent and the staff have been there for a long time. In fact Café Manager, Chris, was actually on board before the café even opened.

Cate also thinks customers enjoy the ambience… that the book / coffee combo creates a homely and welcoming feel.

The store doesn’t have a full kitchen so focuses on light lunches, cakes etc.

“Our most popular dishes are the ones that are home-made. Chris’ cheesecakes have become quite famous and we have a number of customers who phone us to hold some for them.”

Not having a set menu means the MRHB team can mix it up a little. In winter (generally May to September) the store offers home-made soups and in summer, pasta and salads.

And something I didn’t know… was that from 2-3pm on weekdays, they have a happy hour with half-price tea and coffee.

But back to books… Cate loves some quirk and names Tom Robbins as her favourite author. And her favourite genre? Literary fiction—books she describes as well written and featuring words in a way that make her want to read them over and over again. She picks Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie as the best book she’s ever read with Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North coming a close second.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for the team at MRHB will order it in for you, or they can help suggest some options. Cate laughed when I asked her about making recommendations and said they’re occasionally surprised. As much as they think they know what titles particular customers will enjoy, there are always some that come completely out of left field which (she thinks) is a good lesson in not making assumptions… or judging a book by its cover! #sorrynotsorry

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Pop into Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay and say hi to Cate and the team. You can find them at shop 5, 15 Central Avenue, Urraween (opposite Stockland Shopping Centre). Telephone: (07) 4194 2111.  Follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their latest activities! 

Check out Cate’s recent interview about the closure of ABC Bookshops and any impact it may have on Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay.

Upcoming events (check FB for details):
  1 August - Chris Collin (author of the Funky Chicken)
  8 August - Tara Moss
  8 August - National Bookshop Day
 18 August - The Reading Hour
 3 September - Indigenous Literacy Day

**Pics all from MRHB FB page**

A busy weekend in the Borough

It’s that time of year—the festivals start and the whales make their way up the coastline. And it all kicks off this weekend in Maryborough, starting with my favourite event on the Fraser Coast….

Relish Food and Wine Festival

I first went in 2013 and was pleasantly surprised by the event. My expectations were very high second time around, and although there were more food options in 2014, there didn’t seem to be as many stalls and I really struggled on the gluten-free front. My friends were delighted with what was on offer, but I asked at place after place for coeliac-friendly meals to no avail. In the end I bought a bag of organic gluten-free corn chips from someone selling salsa.

relish

Nonetheless I’m looking forward to this year’s event with a stack of new sessions available. Not only can you attend the wine or beer and food matching options (for $25), but there’s also a Wolf Blass Master Class on board the Hervey Bay Boat Club’s boat travelling on the Mary River (for $30) and a long lunch featuring some great local chefs (for $85). I did think about offering my services to live-tweet the lunch (in exchange for a sumptuous repast), but….

On the beer and wine tasting front: Wolf Blass, Vintner’s Secret, Kingsley Grove, Crane’s Wines (a fave of mine from 2013), Clovely Estate, Uncle Bob’s Estate Organic Wine and Yenda Craft Beers will be in attendance.

Of course there’ll be food on sale (and I’m crossing my fingers re GF options) as well as music, stalls and the crowd favourite—foodie talks and cooking demos.

The event stretches from Queen’s Park right around the Portside precinct to the lovely Gatakers Artspace.

Tickets are available online for $12 or at the gate for $15. The gates open at 11am with things wrapping up at 6pm. Check out the Relish site for more info, including a map.

For social media fiends, there’s a Relish Twitter account, Facebook page, and Instagram account.

The hashtag du jour seems to be #relishfrasercoast.

Horsemanship Spectacular

If horses and people riding them are more your thing, local (renowned) horseman Guy McLean will be doing his thing at Susan River Homestead on Saturday evening.

In addition to Guy, his liberty horses and some bush poetry, there’ll be refreshments for sale. Gates open at 4.30 and the show starts at 6pm, so you can pop along after Relish. For more information check out the Susan River Homestead Facebook page.

World’s Greatest PubFest

What better way to recover from overindulging in wine and beer tasting than by drinking more?! Yes indeedy, it’s time for the annual PubFest.

Most years we’re champing at the bit (hee hee, notice how I slipped that in given the above event…. #sorrynotsorry) to regain the world pubcrawl record we won at some point in the past. I haven’t heard a lot of talk about the record this year so I suspect we locals are starting to find the event a bit passe. Who knows? We do have a short attention span and get bored kinda easily.

pubfest-header-logo-2015I didn’t even know what the theme was until I looked up the website (yellow Superheroes incidentally) and… the site’s got ‘Information coming soon…’ type text still there, so….

I’ve never been and have to admit it’s not really my thing; however I know you can get PubFest passports and have access to buses to take you from pub to pub and I suspect it’s great fun if you’re part of a group.

For more info check out the World’s Greatest PubFest website.

Sunday Riverside

It’s that time of the month. Yes really! Sunday Riverside is on again at (outside) the Brolga Theatre near the Mary River. Red Betty will be playing on the River Stage and a dinosaur will be dropping by. As they’re wont to do. #gatecrashingdinosaurs

Pics from FB page

Pics from FB page

I’m ashamed that I’m yet to get to a (first Sunday of the month) Riverside event, but hoping to make it this time. There are some chairs and tables around but you may want to BYO chairs and blankets etc. Food and drinks (including the alcoholic kind! 😉 ) are available for purchase, there are kids games and activities, and entry to the event is free.

The afternoon kicks off at 3pm and check out the Facebook event page for details.

Oh… and most importantly… Monday is a public holiday for most of us so we have a heap of time to recover.

Enjoy!

Making the most of what’s on offer

Last week I submitted my first ever article for publication and amazingly the Fraser Coast Chronicle printed it. Because I am *ahem* somewhat verbose, it was much longer than required and had to be culled. A friend suggested I put the entire thing on this blog, given that it’s got a local flavour, so here we go…

My biggest fear on returning to the Fraser Coast after a couple of decades was that that I’d find the region a cultural wasteland.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the opera-going type, I dislike most stage shows and don’t hang out at music festivals every second weekend. But Brisbane, like most large cities, always had something on offer. So even if I was happier at home watching DVDs and recovering from my working week I knew I could go to trendy markets, a local festival or catch a comedy show.

Which is why I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found on offer since returning to the Fraser Coast.

I’m not normally a ‘joiner’ but have been busier here than I was in Brisbane. In fact, in my first year back I was kept so busy I even suffered from event-going-fatigue.

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Maryborough Regional Arts Council – foreign film night. May 2015

Many people I meet complain there’s nothing to do and yet when I ask them if they’re heading to Relish Festival, Paddle Out For Whales, Sunday Riverside or Flickerfest they screw up their collective noses.

“I can’t be bothered,” they might say.

Interestingly, it’s not the out-of-town shows or big names performing at the Brolga Theatre catching my attention; it’s the Council and community events I most appreciate.

While I’m more than happy to bag the Fraser Coast Regional Council when (I believe) it deserves it, I love that it’s making an effort to entertain its residents and foster a sense of community and culture. Purists and traditionalists may argue for a focus on roads, rates and rubbish but people won’t stay here if there’s nothing to do. We’re not all great at entertaining ourselves and for many—pubs, clubs and weekend sporting fixtures just don’t cut it.

The first time I attended Gatakers By Night I looked around wondering where this eclectic group of people usually hid. Even my mother who knows half of Maryborough saw a lot of different faces.

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Although you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to a museum, I also recently visited the dinosaur display in the Maryborough City Hall, hoping the Friday night pop-up bar attracted other likeminded Fraser Coasters keen for something different. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t!)

I’ve started attending the foreign film nights run by the Maryborough Arts Council and will be at upcoming events like the Mary Poppins and Whale Festivals with bells on. Or at least with a vague sense of enthusiasm.

Of course not all events are free, but many are and most offer something for everyone. I don’t always appreciate the music on offer at Gatakers by Night but Iove its festive feeling and take the opportunity to have a couple of wines and visit the art gallery each month.

And although (quite frankly) I hate crowds, it’s wonderful to experience the energetic atmosphere of Relish or the Seafood Festival and celebrate with other Fraser Coasters.

Most importantly however, I’m just turning up. I’m making the effort to support what’s on—conscious we may ‘lose it, if we don’t use it’.

Although I’m a well-seasoned whinger it’s not enough to sit back and complain if you can’t be bothered making the most of what’s there. And that’s something even I need to remind myself every so often.

Fraser Coast Frozen Wonderland

Although many parents and grandparents have probably had enough of Elsa, Anna and endless renditions of Let It Go; I suspect they’ll be keen to check out the Frozen Wonderland on the Fraser Coast during the 2015 Easter school holidays.

Having nothing at all to do with the movie, Frozen Wonderland is setting up at the Maryborough Showgrounds from 3 – 19 April 2015, offering ice skating and tobogganing.

I know little about this event but saw it on Facebook and thought I’d share the love. It’s great to have activities like this (and the visiting dinosaurs) on the Fraser Coast, so I hope locals and visitors take advantage of what’s on offer rather than complain that there’s little to do.

There will be five (5) session times a day (each 1.5hrs) including a 7pm evening session.

ice skating on the fraser coast

I can’t ice skate to save myself and grew up in the 70s and 80s so am more of a roller-skating kinda gal. Well… I was back in the 70s and 80s. I note that they offer 4-bladed skates for kids under 5—which is what I would need (though doubt they come in women’s size 10!) 😉

All of the info you could need is on the website, including some frequently asked questions AND some skating tips! It also lists session times and prices—including packages.

Given this current summer autumn heat it sounds like the perfect spot to be!

Frozen Wonderland – www.frozenwonderland.com.au/
OR check them out on Facebook.