If you're leaving touristy activities to the tourists, you're missing out

The scene described by Vivienne and captured by John Natoli @johnnatoliunderwater
The scene described by Vivienne and captured by John Natoli @johnnatoliunderwater

With tourism operators struggling and lockdowns looming, Byron Shire resident Vivienne Pearson decided to play tourist in her own town.

Last weekend, I went on my first whale watching cruise. While driving a whole five minutes from my home to the Brunswick Boat Harbour, I wondered why haven't I been before.

Partly it was my fear of sea-sickness, and then were was concern about cost. But, at some level, I have always assumed that activities like whale watching are only for tourists.

I love whales and look forward to whale season each year. But, let's face it, watching them from shore usually involves seeing more splash than whale.

I decided to book after hearing about tour operators doing it tough. And, with the potential of lockdown at any moment, I figured it would be fun to enjoy a memorable experience while I can.

Am I glad I did it? Hugely! I've cruised, kayaked and swum in the Brunswick River numerous times but going out through the heads was a first.

On walks to the Ocean Shores lookout, I'd seen a 'spotter' radioing whale sightings to a boat. Now, I was taking advantage of this system as our boat moved efficiently to where whales were active.

That doesn't mean anything is guaranteed. Waiting and uncertainty are definitely part of the experience. Our sightings increased incrementally over the couple of hours we were out at sea - whales gracefully moving north, then some distant fin splashes, then some tail 'thwacks'.

We then got close enough to hear blowhole exhalations - an astonishing sound - and we were fortunate to see one full breach. We kept our distance from a mother and calf that was perhaps only a week old. I delighted in the panorama of a humped back behind a double fin 'wave', all framed by Wollumbin.

My concern about cost was softened by my Discover NSW voucher. My worry about sea-sickness never eventuated, thanks to advice from the Brunswick Heads Pharmacy.

And, my assumption that activities like whale watching are for tourists only? That dissolved completely as I watched whales while taking in the view of my home region from 18 nautical miles out to sea.

- Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer who went whale watching with Blue Bay at her own expense.