Whale Watching: What To Bring On Your Cruise

Every year between May and October, humpback whales make their way up and down to the east coast of Australia in search of warmer waters.

In doing so, the docile creatures love to show off by putting on one a hell of an aquatic show with their lob tailing, tail slapping, spy hopping, and most spectacularly, jumping almost completely out of the water in an impressive move called breaching.

Needless to say, the best place to witness these majestic creatures of the deep flaunting what their mommas gave them is to meet them where they are and hopping aboard a dedicated whale watching vessel guarantees fantastic spots to see them.

So, what are some things to consider to bring before getting aboard a whale watching boat and experiencing an incredible up-close adventure with some marine wildlife? Please, read on.

Take some motion/sea sickness tablets. 

If you’re inclined to get seasick or motion sick, take some pills with you before you hop aboard your whale watching cruise. There’s nothing more fun than hurtling up the contents of your insides while your bouncing along the ocean waves and boy does it get bumpy, especially crossing the sand bar to get from the canal to the ocean, even if you try to pick a day that has a smaller swell.

With all the bouncy, bouncy and the rocky, rocky, you’re much more likely to have your sick all over yourself much less the floor, and that is no way to enjoy a cruise.

They’ll likely have them for sale aboard the vessel, but it’s cheaper and more convenient to already have them in your system or in your back pocket ready to whip out when you start feeling a bit uneasy.

Whale watching is a bumpy endeavour

Set Your Camera To Shutter Priority

Heading out to see magnificent creatures of the deep, you will, of course, want to take some photos of the majestic beasts, but getting photographs of their fleeting surface movements requires a bit of finesse. 

That’s not even bringing into account the movement of the boat, which makes it very hard to stabilize yourself and keep the whale in the frame for the few seconds it breaks the surface. 

A great way to combat that if you have manual modes of your camera is to set it to the semi-automatic shutter priority. TV for Canon and S for Nikon, shutter priority allows you to set a shutter speed to what you would like and let the camera choose the ISO and aperture based on the scene.

Setting it on a high shutter speed, (upwards of 400 is a good starting value) will help compensate for the movement of the whale, the motion of the boat and any handshake. Just choose a small focus point (you don’t want a broad focus area), focus and shoot.

Due to the brightness differences of the water and the sky, some pictures may come out darker depending on what it was metering when you took the photo, but they can be brightened or darkened in post-processing, but you can’t unblur a photo.

It’s not perfect, especially given the challenging conditions but you’ll end up with more sharp, saveable picture than if you just had it on full automatic. (If you’re not familiar with your camera in manual modes, test it out on moving objects before you go. You can always try it out on a few whales while you’re there and can set it back to automatic if you don’t like the results.)

Baby whale swimming alonside mommy
Fash shutter helps ensure a sharp image

Dress A Little Warm

Heading out on the ocean tide brings with it a lot of wind. Whether it’s the natural wind that whips up the waves or the boat creating its own propelling across the surface of the water, you’re going to get windswept one way or another if you’re in the open areas.

If it’s a nice, hot, warm day, it can be great, but it can also swing the other way and be completely miserable, especially as much of the whale watching season takes place during the frostiest part of the year: winter.

Pack a nice warm wind-resistant coat for maximum comfort during winter and a medium, lightweight jacket for the warmer months, and you’ll be good to go.

Get Heavy With The Sunscreen

Wild animals don’t exactly play by human rules. They don’t. They don’t even know what they are, even if they were to follow them. Which they wouldn’t anyway, because they’re badass. Hehe.

That means that while you might be nice and comfy sitting in the back in the shade, you’re going to miss out on a fair bit of the action. Whales are all over the place, and you are constantly seeking them out along with the skipper, crew and fellow whale watchers. Run to the front, run to the back, run to the side, MOVE YOU’RE GOD DAMN HIDE!

Slather on some sunscreen, and you won’t have to worry about getting burnt to a cinder when you inevitably have to shazam to the other side of the boat to see one of the curious creatures.

It’s also wise to slop some on your noggin’, including your part, your neck and your bald spots, because even you do take a hat, it may fly off your melon as the wind picks up or the boat rides the waves, and the skipper ain’t going back for that.

Keep A Chapstick In Your Back Pocket

For the same reason that you’re gonna want sunscreen for your face and limbs, you’re going to want to bring some chapstick on your whale watching cruise so that you can keep those lips fabulous and moist for the same reason you want to dress a little warm.

Hours of being exposed to the baking sun, the wind and the salty air is a three-hit combo that’s going to hit you right in the mouth. Not only does it make your lips looks like its lost a few rounds with some sandpaper, but it’s also not all it’s cracked up to be. Or it is, depending on which way you look at it. Doors that way, I’ll let myself out. Hehe.

Keep your chapstick on hand so that you can keep your lips feeling soft while you’re oohing and aahing at the beautiful creatures that live below the surface.

Whale Watching
Whale watching usually involves some sun exposure.

Heading out to the deep blue on a dedicated whale watching vessel is a fantastic way to see these beautiful majestic beasts up close and personal right before your very eyeballs.

One can’t help but appreciate the ocean and its endless mysteries whilst searching the coastal waters for their presence.

It makes for a wonderful half-day experience that is sure to leave you in awe every time one comes close, and with these tips on what to bring when you head out on your whale watching adventure, it’s sure to be a fun, warm and comfortable outing on the ocean.

Whale Watching
Have a whale of a time.

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