For our final day in Sydney (November 21st) it was a toss-up between Taronga and whale watching. My brother said the cages in Taronga are far too small for the animals, which put me off..and besides, you can visit a zoo anywhere you like, but where can you whale watch? The decision was pretty easy to make, and we're so glad we went with this company instead of watching yet more bored animals staring from bars.
To begin with, this company are very honest and the agent in the ticket booth (opposite jetty 3 in Circular Quay) will warn you immediately if mist is expected at sea (and so poor veiwing potential) as well as how calm or choppy the water will be. I was very impressed as he accepted my very late cancellation due to illness (ten minutes before departure!) and kindly transfered me onto the next morning's trip.
I was already aware the whale watching season was slowing down for the year...by November, I later learned, the only whales still migrating are the elderly/sick/slow, or mothers and their babies.
We took the morning cruise and, other than two dolphins in the distance and three very close flying fish, which were pretty great to see, nothing appeared. The staff did their next to find a whale but their system is to just look for 'blow' in the distance (inviting the passengers to help them). This seemed a bit of a low-tech and rather useless way to search, although apparently it can be more effective than using sonar detection etc. The jury is still out on that one!
Anyway, one poor woman was very seasick and vomited the entire journey. I felt the whole trip was a little lacklustre because very little information was given over the intercom, information about the whales which would have been welcome even if none appeared. There were very few of us on the boat, so maybe that affected things, I don't know. It was overcast and dull weather too, but on a fine day, just the journey through the harbour and past Manley would be very enjoyable even if you didn't spot any whales.
As promised, if no whales appear you can have a return journey free of charge. We were flying out in the early evening so were cutting it very find by staying onboard for the afternoon cruise, but were so desperate to see the whales we took the chance. We were very glad that we did...
The afternoon cruise was much, much busier, and so there was a better atmosphere on board. Within the hour, a mother and her calf were spotted and we followed them for around an hour or so...the whales kept their distance (the baby came a little closer for a look) but even so, it was pretty magnificent to see these two swimming together.
The information the speaker gave was very good, and I was heartened to hear him berate another boat which was also observing the whales but doing so unethically (following their tail, getting too close etc). I hope he reported this boat as it was breaking the law and possibly stressing the whales. The highlight of the whole trip was when the mother whale breached...amazing! It was the highlight of our holiday in Australia. Also, when a pod of dolpins swam past...you really can't compare any of this to going to a zoo and seeing captive animals.
We got a great discount online, just flick through any of the brochures in the tourist information offices in Sydney and you will find discounts for this company. We actually found one which offered it for $50 instead of $85, but most will get you down to $60. You have to book direct for the discount, so either visit the booth or phone/go online.
The boat journey and the anticipation of finding a blow made this trip one of the best we have done, even in bad weather. I would highly recommend it.