Whale-watching in the Palm Islands

The number of whales migrating up the coast past Townsville has been steadily increasing, and local residents now catch sight of them from the Magnetic Island ferry quite often. We have never been lucky enough to do so, however, so we booked a whale-watching trip to make sure we did at least see a whale before the season ends.

The tour operator picked us up in the city in his troop-carrier and we went out from Lucinda in his small boat at about 9.00. The weather was absolutely perfect until early afternoon, when a bit of wind blew up (not enough to make us too uncomfortable, just not as nice as the morning) and we had a wonderful day.

Our route took us roughly South-east once we cleared the end of Lucinda’s enormously long jetty, out towards Pelorus Island then South along the Eastern side of Orpheus and into the area between Fantome and Great Palm. (This map might help you keep track of our day.)

We saw our first whales before we even reached Pelorus – three which our guide reckoned were two males following a female – and spent some time watching them before continuing past Orpheus Island’s research station and resort to our lunch spot, Yanks Jetty near the Southern tip of the island.

On our return trip through the islands we saw a fairly large Leopard Shark – even our guide was impressed! – and, to make our day complete, a mother whale and her near-newborn calf sleeping peacefully on the surface.

I will divide my photos into two groups – whales and the rest


All the whales we saw were Humpbacks although other Minkes make the same migration. More information: Tourism Qld InfographicDEHP website.

Humpback whale
Our first sighting
Humpback whale
Female with two males trailing her
Humpback whale flukes
Going down!
Humpback whales
Sleeping is sheltered waters
Humpback whale
Mother and calf
Scenery and other wildlife
The seaward side of Fantome Island, sand-blasted by Yasi

Cyclone Yasi (2011) picked up the sand from the beach and stripped the vegetation from the exposed side of Fantome Island. It has not yet recovered.

Palm Islands
Tumbled boulders on a rocky point
Yanks Jetty
Our boat tied up to the Yanks Jetty pontoon

The pilings at left are remnants of the American-built wartime jetty which gave the beach its name.

Welcome Swallow
A Welcome Swallow with nesting material on Yanks Jetty pontoon

There were lots of swallows around the pontoon and they were obviously used to having it to themselves.

Leopard Shark
Leopart Shark just visible beneath the surface

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