2019 whale watching season arrives in Port Stephens on time and in style

Two humpbacks treated keen whale watchers to quite the show during the first cruise of the season, ducking under boats and popping up on the other side mere metres from passengers for an hour last Saturday.

Moonshadow-TQC and Imagine Cruises kicked off its 2019 whale watching cruises on May 18 and despite a quiet lead up to the start day, with a few of the creatures spotted here and there along the Port's coast line, the first tours could not have gone better.

"It was a great start," Imagine Cruises skipper Frank Future said of the experience. "They're really going to start coming through now."

An estimated 35,000 whales, mainly humpbacks, are expected to pass along the Port's coast during the migration between May and November.

From mid-May to August the whales migrate north to their calving ground in the South Pacific region.

The southern migration takes place from August to mid-November when mothers and newborn calves make their way back down to the feeding grounds in Antarctica.

Port Stephens is one of the prime locations on the east coast to see whales in action, either from the water or land, making the creatures an important driver of visitation, particularly in the cooler months, to the region.

The two cruise companies are expected to host between 40,000 and 50,000 people on cruises during the season.

Mel Turner, business development manager for Moonshadow-TQC, said the company was expecting a "bumper whale season".

"People are becoming more and more aware of whales," she said.

"In Port Stephens you can see whales from land or on the water. We actively promote this, and share a lot of photos and videos of whales on social media. We generate a lot of interest in whale watching through social media."

Moonshadow-TQC reported sighting its first whale of the season during its reconnaissance cruise on May 13 near Fingal Bay Light House - almost the same spot as the 'mugging' from the two humpbacks on May 18.

A mugging is when a whale approaches within the 100m distancing vessels must keep from the animals.

Port Stephens photographer Laura Chaffey, who was on board a Moonshadow-TQC cruise at the time, said it was an "amazing" experience.

Mr Future said it was important that boat and jetski operators now kept a watchful eye out on the horizon with the whales beginning to come through.

The whale watching season will be officially launched in Nelson Bay on Friday, May 31.

In celebration of this, Moonshadow-TQC and Imagine Cruises will be offering special discounts on whale watching cruises booked with them on Saturday, June 1.

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