Wildlife at Montague Island
A glorious spring morning on the water off Montague Island Narooma turned into an exciting wildlife spotting expedition. Whales, seals, dolphins and an abundance of bird life came out to make this one of our most memorable fishing trips.
A day’s charter fishing around Montague Island is always one of our must-do activities to entertain visitors. When our son and his friend visited from Berlin late in September we suggested there might be the possibility of seeing a whale or two. September is right in the middle of whale migration season. Locals and tourists alike gather on the headlands to watch the show as the whales pass by.
Even so, we certainly didn’t expect to spend the day marvelling at a large pod of humpback whales who had stopped off to dine on krill on their annual trek south.
Humpback whales off Montague Island
Fishing Charter in Narooma
We usually take our visitors out with Narooma Fishing Charters , a smaller boat where you can have a relaxing day dangling a line. John doesn’t operate whale watching tours, but you do have the opportunity to witness the abundant wildlife around Montague Island while enjoying a fish.
If you are planning a specific whale watching tour, there are several charter operators who conduct tours, most of whom are also licensed with National Parks to land and conduct tours of Montague Island itself.
Early morning on Wagonga Inlet
Setting out from Apex Park at sunrise, the moon is still reflected in the glassy waters of Mill Bay. It is a quiet, peaceful time of morning, where all you can hear is the abundant bird life singing in the new day.
Donning our life jackets, we head across the bar towards Montague Island, where we are greeted with a glorious Island sunrise, as a pod of dolphins swim alongside the boat.
Humpback Whales at Montague Island
We soon realised that there was more than a glorious new day welcoming us to the Island. Long before we saw them, you could hear the sonic communications of a large pod of humpback whales feeding on krill before their southern migration.
Then you could see what looked like dozens of geysers spurting from the water as the humpbacks surfaced, spouting water as they took a breath and dived again in search of breakfast.
As we approached we witnessed a breathtaking scene like something out of a wildlife documentary. Dozens of whales were milling around, surfacing and putting on quite a show.
Needless to say, the fishing lines were securely “in” to ensure there was no likelihood of inadvertently injuring these magnificent creatures. All too often we hear of whales dying from entanglement in fishing gear.
While we were stopped the mandatory 100 metres away from the pod, this didn’t stop them from swimming up so close we could almost touch them. They seemed to be enjoying a morning’s “people watching” as well, poking their heads out of the water to have good look at us.
We’ve often spotted the odd whale out around Montague Island, but this morning’s show was our most memorable whale watching experience.
Humpbacks are the most common whales spotted around Narooma, however we do receive visits from Southern Rights, Blue whales, Sperm whales and Minke whales.
If you are planning a trip in your own boat, it is important to respect the fact that you are entering their natural environment and make yourself aware of regulations and caution zones.
Humpback whale off Montague Island
Usually we only see one or two whales passing through. So it was incredible that even when we headed off to fish on the other side of the island, at a safe distance from the pod, they remained there all morning.
As the boys enjoyed a morning fishing, I was relaxing in the sun, listening to the unmistakable whale songs and continuing to watch the show from a distance.
Fishing at Montague Island
Later in the morning, the lines were reeled in once again as a small group of whales began to swim around us, investigating the boat. It was such a privilege to be able to witness these magnificent creatures up so close.
A large passing tanker came in closer to witness the show. This prompted a flurry of furious tail-slapping as the pod alerted each other to the perceived danger. It was interesting that they had seemed unperturbed by the many smaller boats such as ours on the water, yet this large cargo ship prompted a very angry reaction from the pod.
Seals on Montague Island
The whales are not the only wildlife you will come across at Montague Island. The Island is home to a colony of over 1000 Australian and New Zealand fur seals. Cruising past you can see them basking on the rocks, playing in the water and enjoying a fish.
Birdlife is abundant at the Island. During the morning we watched albatrosses soaring overhead and this flock of Mutton Birds flying past.
On the way home we were treated with a final show as our curious whale friend from earlier in the morning swam past for a final look. I’m pretty sure he was waving goodbye.