Hervey Bay Whale Watching has been taken to the next level with the release of Whale Watching 2.0, an immersive experience where watchers can slip over the sides of the boat and swim with the humpback whales in calm protective waters off World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, Australia

Skipper Brian Perry, who pioneered Humpback Whale Watching in Hervey Bay 28 years ago, said this new swimming experience takes place under controlled conditions and that the elements – calm waters, good visibility and whales that are inquisitive (which locals call a mugging) but not surface active with breaches and tail slaps – had to align for it to take place.

“Hervey Bay is the most important habitat in the world for migrating humpback whales,” he said. “We’re not whale watching in open ocean, but in the protected waters of the Great Sandy Strait on the lee side of Fraser Island, but you still have to have the right combination of weather and good-natured humpbacks to swim with them.”

There was an air of excitement for the inaugural swim, which took place on the second weekend in August. According to Brian: “The first pod we saw were breaching and showing off, and the second were clearly on the move and not interested in us. By the time we encountered a third pod, which were super inquisitive, we knew we had the right conditions, so we switched off the motors. The swimmers sat on the duck board with their feet dangling in the water and the rest of the whale watchers lined the decks waving and yelling, and we waited for the humpbacks to come to us.”

And come they did. Two four-year-old humpbacks swam around the boat, coming closer with each arc. Quick Cat’s deckie and swim host, Tracey Magyar, slipped into the water and one by one the guests joined her on a rope tethered off the back of the boat. On their fourth circuit, the curious humpbacks dived and swam directly under the swimmers.

Whilst the swimmers did not hear the whales sing – like their fellow whale watchers who stayed aboard Quick Cat II and watched the excitement from their deck – there were plenty of in-human noises through their snorkels as they expressed their excitement during the encounter.

Skipper Brian and the Quick Cat II (Hervey Bay Whale Watch) leave Fraser Island daily during the season, which runs from 1 August until 31 October and costs $110 for adults and $70 for children aged 4-14. The new swimming with the humpback experience costs an extra $75pp (on top of the cruise ticket price) and can only be booked on the boat on the day.

Longer stay, accommodated packages at Kingfisher Bay Resort start from $379 per person and include two nights hotel accommodation on Fraser Island’s western side with a bonus third night free, hot buffet breakfast daily, return passenger ferry transfers ex River Heads and a half-day whale watch cruise with Captain Brian.

Hervey Bay Whale Watch operators are working with Queensland Parks and Wildlife to ensure the experience is safe and respectful for humpbacks and humans.

For more information visit www.kingfisherbay.com