Tips & Guidelines

Where do I see whales around Phillip Island? What type of whales am I looking for?
Can I see them from the land? What do I wear when whale spotting?
Have you seen a whale but you’re not sure how to share your sighting?

We have gathered some information to help you to enjoy whale watching on Phillip Island.
For the answers to these questions and more, let’s get started.

 

Here are some tips to help you spot whales:

  1. The Whale Season

    We see several species of whales from May to October,  humpback whales and southern right whales can be seen along the Victorian coastline.

  2.  Where to See Whales

    Have a look at the Bass Coast Whale Discovery Trail below for good vantage points to spot whales from. Remember to look after the coastal environment by watching out for wildlife on the roads, and by keeping to the tracks. We know everyone gets excited at the viewing platforms, please be patient and kind observing the COVID safe practice when out and about.

  3. Wear the Right Gear

    The best place for whale watching is outdoors on land or boat tour. To maximize your comfort while whale watching, we strongly recommend dressing in warm layers and take a waterproof jacket. The whales will come out rain or shine, and recommend being prepared for any type of weather. You can always spend time in a cafe to enjoy a hot beverage to warm up!

  4. Have Your Camera Ready!

    Whether you are an expert photographer or an iPhone amateur, you are sure to get some great shots from the boat. To ensure you get the best whale photos, make sure to have your camera in hand and fully charged.  If you are on your phone, we always recommend setting it to video mode to be able to catch the whales surfacing, breathing, diving, or breaching.

  5. Take Some Time Away From the Lens

    Step back from your viewfinder at least once to take in the wildlife and just enjoy it. With the clifftop views, the large open expansive of the ocean, and the abundant wildlife you will be viewing, it is impossible to take it all in without using all of your senses. It’s important to put the camera down for a bit to thoroughly appreciate the experience.

  6. How do I Spot a Whale?

    The easiest way to spot a whale is to look for its spout or its vertical spray, and you’ll see that silhouetted against the water or the sky. Another way to see them is if you see a big splash, then you probably just missed a breach. Choose a day when there’s no white caps or little disturbance in the water.   If it’s a really windy day they’re much harder to spot so choose a calm day.

  7. Be Patient

    Whales are mostly unpredictable, but once you have a grasp of a particular whale’s behavior you can better anticipate its next move. The humpback whales that we see have an average down time of 3-8 minutes, so it is important to be patient.  Take note of what direction the whale was travelling when you last saw it and keep an eye out in that direction.

  8. Share Your Photos!

    Share your whale sightings in the area are often posted on several Facebook pages: Two Bays Whale ProjectPhillip Island Whale Watchers, and Wildlife Coast Cruises.
    Share your photos on Instagram include hashtags #islandwhales #phillipisland  #whalesvictoria #yourhappyspace

  9. Download the Wildlife Whales App

    Most updates are near to real-time and often include tips on where the whales could be seen from download the WILDLIFE WHALES app on google play or the apple store. (links below). For your best chance of seeing whales, keep an eye out on the above Facebook pages and be ready to grab your binoculars and head out to the lookouts to spot the whales yourselves.

 

Bass Coast Whale Discovery Trail

Follow the Whale Discovery Trail and stop at iconic bays, headlands and beaches to enjoy magnificent views as you search for whales. The Trail leads you to a range of coastal viewing points where interpretive signage provides an insight into the majesty and mystery of whales and their behaviours.

Download Bass Coast Whale Discovery Trail

 

Wildlife Whales App

Wildlife Coast Cruises have a wonderful APP  with lots of information for Whale Watchers here and at Wilsons Prom

Search for “wildlife whales” in your app store or google play store.

 

   

 

 

If you’re lucky to see whales, please share your sighting by reporting your sighting on        ‘PodWatch’ https://www.dolphinresearch.org.au/report-sightings-page/   or call Wildlife Coast Cruises on 1300 763 739.

Along Bass Coast, you also have the opportunity to view these majestic creatures from the air and the sea. For details on cruises,
please check our boat tours page.

 

 

 

Water safety around marine mammals

Seeing whales, dolphins and seals is a special experience, but they may see humans as a threat or be harmed by human activity. Follow the rules for the safety of all.

When marine mammals feel threatened, they may cause people harm. Cases have been reported where humans have been bitten by seals, knocked over by dolphins, or been hurt or killed trying to swim with large whales. Likewise, grabbing onto a dolphin or seal might harm the animal and result in an injury to you. Boats and aircraft can also disturb, distress or harm marine mammals. To protect whales, dolphins, seals and you, there are some rules about what you can and can’t do when swimming or surfing around marine mammals.

 

Rules at a glance

It’s important not to get too close to marine mammals when on the water.
To reduce the risk of disturbance to natural behaviours:

  • – boats are not permitted to approach within 100 metres of a dolphin or 200 metres of a whale
  • – jet skis are not permitted within 300 metres of either a whale or dolphin
  • – caution zones apply within 300 metres of a whale, within 150 metres of a dolphin and within 50 metres of a seal, subject to a range of other operating conditions.

 

A summary of the restrictions in place for boating and swimming around whales, dolphins and seals.
Download the Marine Mammal Brochure.

 

A guide to boating and swimming around whales, dolphins and seals (PDF, 1.8 MB)
A guide to boating and swimming around whales, dolphins and seals (DOC, 1.6 MB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact our  Wildlife Victoria Customer Contact Centre on 136 186 for further information.

For more information see the website WILDLIFE Victoria 

 

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Have the characteristic white ventral (under) side, long flippers, a relatively small dorsal (back) fin and a rounded blow. Southern right whales, on the other hand, are generally black in colour, lack a dorsal fin, have rounded flippers, and have a V-shaped blow. Did you know that the blow was originally called ‘spout’ as people thought they blew out water? The blow appears like water because the warm air is released from the whales’ lungs at high pressure and condenses in the cold air.

Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis)

are similar in size but are heavier than the humpback whales. They are nearly black in color and move slower. They can sometimes be seen in quite shallow waters within a 100m from the coast.

Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)

Occasionally visit the waters around Phillip Island as seals make up an important part of their diet. These whales often forage in groups up to 12 whales. Killer whales can be identified by their tall black dorsal fins (males) and distinct white markings on the face and ventral side.