By Freya Ensbey.
Thinking of birthday gifts for men is no easy feat. Of
course, there is the standard last-minute options like a nice cologne, socks or
a tie, but this year I wanted something a little more special for my partner. I
wanted a memory and experience that would last with him long after any colognes
Sitting at my local beach, enjoying my morning coffee, a
whale splash was spotted out to sea, everyone around me stirred with excitement
and began pointing in its direction, anticipating the next movement. I thought
how amazing it would be to be right next to it; and so the idea for the perfect
gift for my partner, Bryce was born.
I did some research and decided a weekend day trip to Moreton
Island to partake in a whale watching cruise ticked all of the boxes. Waking on
the Sunday morning, I was secretly just as excited as Bryce for the day of
activity ahead of us. Living on the Gold Coast, we took the easy drive to
Brisbane’s Holt Street Wharf at Pinkenba, and upon arrival received a parking
token to conveniently park in the guest car park for the day.
With passenger ferry services 4 times a day, we boarded the
10 am departure and headed to the open top deck to enjoy the sunshine as we took
the 75 minute journey winding through Brisbane’s industrial estate and out into
open waters. The ferry itself was very comfortable and spacious, with several clean
amenities and a mini bar in service to purchase light snacks to keep the hunger
pangs at bay and hot beverages to keep you warm whilst travelling across the chilly,
As we were in transit, the skipper gave us a running
commentary of the Brisbane waterways, Tangalooma Island Resort and Moreton
Island. We soon discovered that Moreton Island itself is the third largest sand
island in the world, covering an area of approximately 186 square kilometres,
and extending for 37 kilometres from North to South. It is also home to the
highest coastal sand dune in the world, Mount Tempest, standing at a staggering
285 metres high. Named by the local Aboriginals of the Moorgumpin area, Moreton
Island means ‘place of sand hills,’ with 98% of the island and surrounding
oceans being protected by National Parks.
As we approached Moreton Island to dock, we were met with spectacular
views of towering sand dunes, capped with lush green foliage, playing home to Tangalooma
We disembarked the passenger ferry to stretch our legs and
peruse the resort for half an hour before needing to be back at the wharf to
board our whale watching catamaran, known to be Australia’s largest whale
watching vessel. Taking a wander through the resort, we were surprised with the
amount of activities on offer, like the transparent kayaks adorned with neon
lighting to take out after dark, quad bike tours, parasailing, snorkelling and
paddle board hire, just to name a few, however the activity Tangalooma Island Resort
is famous for would have to be their Wild Dolphin feeding program, which they
offer each evening for resort guests and day tour visitors.
Rich in history, the Tangalooma Island Resort area was
originally a whaling station, sold in 1980 to the Osborne family, who still
currently own and operate the resort, but have turned their attention to focus
on capturing the whales with cameras from the safety of a boat for the last 30
years, and offering the closest whale experience off the Brisbane coast.
As we made our way back to the jetty to begin our whale
watching adventure, we took a seat upon the middle deck in one of the
comfortable red velvet booths. As we departed the Resort we were offered a
complimentary lunch, which was a tasty packed box of gourmet sandwiches, wraps,
an apple, chocolate muffin, cheese and crackers and mints along with a
refreshing drink, perfectly lining our stomachs as we headed into the choppy
open seaways off the coast of Moreton Island.
Tessa, our on board Eco Ranger and extremely knowledgeable whale
watching commentator, spoke to us about the riveting lives of whales and explained
that from June through till the end of October is the peak sighting window of
the whale watching season in the area.
It was only an hour into our trip when Tessa spotted two
whales ahead in the distance, creating the energy of the boat to lift and
having us all move to the upper deck and viewing platforms. As we headed toward
the whales, their sprays for air became loader and closer and it didn’t take
long for them to be right in front of us. The size of the mammals were
unbelievable, both Bryce and myself were left speechless, looking at each other
The catamaran slowed to a stop as we bobbed in the same
spot, right in the path of the whales who out of curiosity would approach the
boat, lifting their hefty bodies up out of the water and breaching with
almighty splashes, waving their flippers while they rolled onto their back or
raised their tail flukes out of the water and slapped them forcefully to create
a loud resonating noise, which could be heard by other whales kilometres away.
"This is the most surreal experience I have ever had!” Bryce
said at one point, smiling from ear to ear.
Each and every whale was just as exciting as the next, with
intermittent lulls between the whales passing, our attention was taken up by
the other sea life passing by, like large sea turtles and pods of dolphins,
playing casually with their calves.
After several hours out to sea and an impressive 24 whale
sightings later, it was time to head back to the shores of Tangalooma. The
whole way home, the boat was abuzz with the guests all discussing how
incredible the last few hours had been, comparing photos and agreeing how magical
these creatures are.
With our feet on the white sands of Moreton Island again, we
headed to B & B’s Resort Bar to enjoy an icy cold beer before having to
take the passenger ferry back to Brisbane.
"I don’t want to leave, this has been the best birthday
ever!” Bryce kept saying.
"We have to come back and stay an entire weekend one day. I
would love to take part in the dolphin feeding and have more time to explore
As we arrived back to Brisbane at around 5.30 pm, the sun
was starting to set on an incredible birthday shared together. We were both
exhausted and ready for bed, but we will carry with us the unforgettable
experience of being up close with some of the world’s largest animals, forever.
Tangalooma Island Resort's 30th whale watching season will run from June to October 2017. For more information and to book the perfect gift, visit www.tangalooma.com. AGFG was a guest of Tangalooma Island Resort, however, Freya's opinion is her own.