Bondi Beach is a legendary Australian beach, where surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers all converge. It’s also an amazing place to see the beautiful wildlife that thrives in the Pacific Ocean only a few miles away from Australia’s biggest city, Sydney.
The area regularly plays host to humpback whale migrations throughout the summer months, which are actually Australia’s coldest as Sydney is over 30 degrees south of the equator. Tens of thousands of whales and dolphins of various kinds come thousands of miles from the chilly waters of Antarctica.
Humpbacks are an endangered species that was once hunted to the brink of extinction before conservation laws helped them rebound. They can be anywhere between 40 and 50 feet long and can weigh up to a staggering 25–30 tons (as heavy as two school buses), making them one of the most incredible creatures in the world to see up close and personal.
For one whale-watching tour boat last summer, the experience went beyond their wildest imagination.
The relatively small boat set out from Bondi Beach and had some pretty close encounters of the whale kind. Fortunately, a British nature photographer who’s been living in Australia for a couple of decades was there to catch it all.
John Goodridge told Caters News that it was a spectacular day for whale watching. “The anticipation was really high as we had a pod of whales either side of us.” Noting that many trips don’t get any whales at all, this was a great one. Little did the whale watchers know what was in store for them.
It started when the whales began breaching, a term describing the action in which whales use their tales to propel themselves fully out of water, creating an enormous splash as they land. As Goodridge noted, this isn’t just to put on a show for nature lovers. “To see a whale breach is really amazing,” Goodridge told Caters News.
“They actually do it to clean their skin of all the barnacles and parasites that have built up.” As the day went on, the watchers got to see more and more of a show. For the grand finale, which Goodridge managed to capture on camera, one whale breached right next to the boat.
It was a “close call” though, as the boats were covered by the splash the whale made on reentry. For Goodridge, the best way to describe the day was “exhilarating.”
— Caters News (@Caters_News) August 27, 2018
In 2013, some surfers at Bondi might have even got closer than they wanted to, as a humpback whale came very close in to the shore. Humpbacks are curious and will often come near boaters, kayakers, or in this case, surfers. Surfer Bishan Rajapakse was knocked unconscious by the massive humpback and while recovering at the hospital told 7NEWS Sydney: “I just remember this magnificent whale slowly coming to the right of me.”
Rajapakse was so impressed with the whale that he tried to talk to it. But that’s when everything went blank as the whale jumped, churning up the water and knocking him out. The surfer joked, “maybe he was giving me five, I don’t know.”
A man on the beach described the sight in dramatic terms: “you just saw surfers, surfboards, swimmers thrown into the air like skittles,” he told 7NEWS Sydney. Experiences like these illustrate the incredible power and beauty of whales and will hopefully persuade people around the world to continue to protect these amazing sea creatures.