Busselton is without a doubt, Western Australia’s biggest tourism success story, having turned its economy around from being primarily centered around agriculture to becoming one that’s primarily driven by tourism and services. This is in part thanks to the yearly presence of the whales in the nearby Geographe Bay.
Ironically, early European settlers and foreign visitors once hunted whales in an area close to extinction, with whaling forming a vital part of the settlement’s early economy. Whaling mostly came to an end with the introduction of fossil fuels in the 1860s and the area shifted to agriculture and slipped into relative obscurity.
Thanks to the natural beauty and the presence of the whales, Busselton was able to experience a huge uptick in tourism arrivals starting in the 1980s. By then, the whales had somewhat replenished their numbers and have become a regular sight off the coast, attracting tourists from all over the country to this day.
While you may have occasional whale sightings from the city’s wonderful beaches, for serious whale watching Busselton locals will usually recommend scheduled guided tours from Naturaliste Charters and other whale watching charter services.
These guided tours are run by extremely knowledgeable staff who will not only get you very close to the whales, but they also explain many fascinating things about the whales – as well as contextualize their role in Busselton’s history!
That said, if you’re interested in whale watching in Busselton, here are a few tips for making it a truly fulfilling experience.
1.) Know the whales’ migration season
If you want a better chance of a whale sighting, it’s best to learn their migration season and book your tour ahead of time. While there are isolated sightings all year round, most of the whales begin to appear off Geographe Bay around late September and the last sightings happen around mid-November to early December.
2.) Bring sunglasses and sunscreen
The chartered trips will normally take you out only when the weather is optimal for whale watching. This means that you might be out in the sun for a few hours. Western Australia has the most intense sunlight in the country, so it’s prudent to keep yourself protected. Slip, slop, slap!
3.) Expect to get wet!
These guided tours will take you quite close to the whales. Sometimes, they may get close enough to get you seriously wet from their splashing or blowhole exhails. Sea conditions may also kick up some spray on deck. Make sure that anything you don’t want to get wet stays onshore.
4.) Bring the right camera and equipment
You’ll want to remember this tour for the rest of your life, so be sure to bring an appropriate camera and lenses, plus anything else that will allow you to comfortably take good shots of the whales. Be sure that any such equipment is protected from or resistant to seawater.
5.) Don’t spend the entire trip behind the camera
Take some time to live in the moment and see the whales without a camera in-between. Many people regret spending the entire trip behind the camera and not watching these beautiful creatures with their own eyes. Don’t make the same mistake and remember to appreciate these creatures as they are.
6.) Choose a tour operator that loves the whales as much as you do!
Choose operators that emphasize whale conservation and education. This will help ensure that future generations will be able to experience the wonder and majesty of these remarkable creatures.
If you’re ever in Busselton around September to November, be sure to take some time to see the whales off Geographe Bay. Choose a guided tour that contributes to research and conservation efforts like Naturaliste Charters to ensure that the whales come back not just to Busselton, but other parts of the ocean that they used to roam as well.
What other tips for whale watching in Busselton can you share? Tell us!