WHALES delighted Coochiemudlo Island residents with a playful display just metres from their boat on Moreton Bay on Saturday.
The show came after the group had seen about eight whale pods during their boat trip to and from Moreton Island.
The last pair was about 120 metres away at first but then – to the delight of the two adults and three children on board – appeared alongside the boat.
The boat driver, who asked to be identified only as Leigh, said they were lucky the whales had come to them.
He was reluctant to share his story, fearing other boaties might try to manufacture a similar experience by crowding whales during their migration.
Leigh said boaties’ responsibilities towards migrating whales were clear but this pair had approached the boat and hung around.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience but I really hope that people stick to the rules and regulations as best they can so we can keep seeing these massive mammals in the wild without them becoming too wary of boats and people.”
When they first spotted the whales, Leigh stopped about 120 metres from them and dropped speed so the kids could get photographs.
“The whales did a deep dive and disappeared from the surface, so I maintained my course and speed in the hope of re-acquiring them when they came back up again,” Leigh said.
“The next time we spotted them was straight under the boat.
“I killed the sounder and engine in the hope of not disturbing them, thinking that they'd just pass through underneath us and be on their way but for the next 10 minutes the whales calmly circled the boat, diving underneath.
“It was a little disconcerting having such massive mammals practically within touching distance but an experience that was absolutely amazing.”
It was the first time Angela Thomsett had seen whales, and she was left almost speechless by the experience.
“It was amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Ms Thomsett said.
“We are just very grateful. It was an amazing experience for everybody.”
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch has warned boaties to adhere to approach limits and be careful, especially at night.
Details about approach limits are at ehp.qld.gov.au/factsheets/pdf/wildlife/marine-mammal-proximity-brochure.pdf.
“A fully-grown humpback is 40 tonnes of unpredictability. Without warning, they can slap their 5-metre fins and enormous tails, and breach right out of the water or under your boat,” Ms Enoch said.
“In the Whitsundays last August, a very unlucky group of fishers suffered injuries when a whale breached right under their boat during the day.
“Remember that whales are curious creatures and may nudge your boat. If you are worried about safety, slow down and steer away from the whale immediately.”
Ms Enoch said vessels could approach up to 100 metres, unless there were already three boats at that limit, in which case skippers need to stay 300 metres away.
“Boats cannot travel at more than six knots or create a wake within the 300 metre caution zone,” Ms Enoch said.
About 33,000 whales were expected to head north along the Queensland this season, accompanied by a few thousand newborns on the journey south.