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Celebrities Talk Up Our Whales

By Mark Beale

An overnight internet celebrity, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a never-before-seen-encounter – these are just some of the highlights that have emerged from a recent whale sighting in the Whitsundays.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this encounter before: It was magical and will go down as one of the highlights of my life on the water,” jetski tour guide Ian Wilson said, after coming incredibly close to the majestic creatures last Friday.

Mr Wilson’s tour group were quite close together as the whale “moved from ski to ski for over an hour, giving us a show”.

“He was so inquisitive and just didn’t want to leave us alone,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Wilson has worked with whale populations across the world, including Tonga, where guests often dive and swim with humpbacks. He has spent the past six years in the Whitsundays working on the water.

“At all times I was aware of the protection of these amazing creatures, and respectful of the rules,” he said.

“(But) it’s fantastic that they’re so inquisitive and trusting of us.

“Treating these encounters carefully will surely see many more wonderful interactions during the season (ahead).”

And Mr Wilson wasn’t the only one amazed.

Mackay man Travis Poland was front and centre during the experience with his whale selfie being featured on news programs including Channel 7’s Sunrise and Sky News and shared by celebrity vet Dr Chris Brown and his 130,000-plus followers.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this crazy,” Mr Poland said. “I was just in shock (but) I’m loving it.”

Mr Poland said not long after the tour started, the group was told there had been a whale sighting in the area the previous day.

After arriving at the reported sighting area, they waited for 30 minutes with only some distant spray to report. Then it happened.

“It just popped up right next to us. Five metres from my ski. We just shouted ‘it’s here, it’s here’,” Mr Poland said.

“They (tour guides) said it probably won’t come up again. Then all of a sudden bang, it popped up again. For an hour and a half, it just played. It just got closer and closer and more playful.”

Did he get scared during the encounter?

“In the beginning when it first popped up we got a bit of a fright. It bumped my ski a couple of times,” he said.

“It was just crazy. For 45 minutes it was playing with my ski at one stage, it wouldn’t leave me alone.”

In his Facebook post, Dr Brown said the calf was “actually demonstrating the classic whale behaviour of ‘spy-hopping’ where they’ll position themselves vertically and pop just their heads out for a look”. “It’s a clear indicator of curiosity,” he wrote.

Video footage of the young whale also showed him surfacing and blowing air, flicking his tail and casually swimming around onlookers. The question now is whether the Whitsundays will recieve a visit from its very own white whale “Chalkie” this year, or possibly even Australia’s favourite humpback Migaloo.


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