Say cheese!

Up close and per­sonal with ocean won­der

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Dane Lilling­stone

IT SEEMS that whale sea­son has well and truly ar­rived in the Whit­sun­days with one tourism oper­a­tor cap­tur­ing some amaz­ing footage on Fri­day.

Whit­sun­day Jet­ski Tours and their guests were treated to a ‘once-in-a-life­time’ ex­pe­ri­ence that day on their Two Is­land Sa­fari tour en route to Day­dream Is­land.

Tour guides Ian Wil­son and Levi Shapen­donk spot­ted a whale about 1km away and de­cided to have their rid­ers shut down their jet­ski en­gines and en­joy the scene. Within 10 min­utes the whale was 60m away from them. Five min­utes later the young male whale sur­faced mere me­tres from the jet­skis. One Mackay man has even be­come an overnight sen­sa­tion for his selfie pic­ture with one of the whales.

AN OVERNIGHT in­ter­net celebrity, a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence, a never-be­fore-seen-en­counter – these are just some of the high­lights that have emerged from a re­cent whale sight­ing in the Whit­sun­days.

“I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like this en­counter be­fore: It was mag­i­cal and will go down as one of the high­lights of my life on the wa­ter,” jet­ski tour guide Ian Wil­son said, af­ter com­ing in­cred­i­bly close to the ma­jes­tic crea­tures last Fri­day.

Mr Wil­son’s tour group were quite close to­gether as the whale “moved from ski to ski for over an hour, giv­ing us a show”.

“He was so in­quis­i­tive and just didn’t want to leave us alone,” Mr Wil­son said.

Mr Wil­son has worked with whale pop­u­la­tions across the world, in­clud­ing Tonga, where guests of­ten dive and swim with hump­backs. He has spent the past six years in the Whit­sun­days work­ing on the wa­ter.

“At all times I was aware of the pro­tec­tion of these amaz­ing crea­tures, and re­spect­ful of the rules,” he said.

“(But) it’s fan­tas­tic that they’re so in­quis­i­tive and trust­ing of us.

“Treat­ing these en­coun­ters care­fully will surely see many more won­der­ful inte- rac­tions dur­ing the sea­son (ahead).”

And Mr Wil­son wasn’t the only one amazed.

Mackay man Travis Poland was front and cen­tre dur­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence with his whale selfie be­ing fea­tured on news pro­grams in­clud­ing Chan­nel 7’s Sun­rise and Sky News and shared by celebrity vet Dr Chris Brown and his 130,000-plus fol­low­ers.

“I didn’t think it was go­ing to be this crazy,” Mr Poland said. “I was just in shock (but) I’m lov­ing it.”

Mr Poland said not long af­ter the tour started, the group was told there had been a whale sight­ing in the area the pre­vi­ous day.

Af­ter ar­riv­ing at the re­ported sight­ing area, they waited for 30 min­utes with only some dis­tant spray to re­port. Then it hap­pened.

“It just popped up right next to us. Five me­tres from my ski. We just shouted ‘it’s here, it’s here’,” Mr Poland said.

“They (tour guides) said it prob­a­bly won’t come up again. Then all of a sud­den bang, it popped up again. For an hour and a half, it just played. It just got closer and closer and more play­ful.”

Did he get scared dur­ing the en­counter?

“In the be­gin­ning when it first popped up we got a bit of a fright. It bumped my ski a cou­ple of times,” he said.

“It was just crazy. For 45 min­utes it was play­ing with my ski at one stage, it wouldn’t leave me alone.”

In his Face­book post, Dr Brown said the calf was “ac­tu­ally demon­strat­ing the clas­sic whale be­hav­iour of ‘spy-hop­ping’ where they’ll po­si­tion them­selves ver­ti­cally and pop just their heads out for a look”. “It’s a clear in- di­ca­tor of cu­rios­ity,” he wrote.

Video footage of the young whale also showed him sur­fac­ing and blow­ing air, flick­ing his tail and ca­su­ally swim­ming around on­look­ers. The ques­tion now is whether the Whit­sun­days will re­cieve a visit from its very own white whale “Chalkie” this year, or pos­si­bly even Aus­tralia’s favourite hump­back Mi­ga­loo.

“I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like this en­counter be­fore”

– Ian Wil­son

Photo Cour­tesy of Whit­sun­day Jet­ski Tours

AMAZ­ING: Whit­sun­day Jet­ski Tours guest Travis Poland with a hump­back whale.

Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Whit­sun­day Jet­ski Tours

Whit­sun­day Jet­ski Tours guests en­joyed the rare ex­pe­ri­ence with this young male hump­back whale. Jet­ski Tour guide Ian Wil­son tak­ing pho­tos of the amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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