Whale Watching: Hervey Bay

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It’s a focus for our family to experience nature, in all its wonder and beauty.  There’s a quality bonding that comes with going on adventures together, which I believe is integral when creating a strong family and shaping a childhood full of beautiful memories. 

We went on one such adventure last weekend to Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast in Queensland.   The last time we visited Hervey Bay was a year ago.  One of our daughters is serious about basketball and we found a good second hand free-standing practice hoop for sale at Hervey Bay, and decided to make a weekend of it. (The things you do for your kids!)  We all fell in love with the place that weekend, and to follow it up with a whale watching experience was fantastic.

Crossing the Road with 4 kids: Like a boss

Crossing the road with kids

Why Hervey Bay is so Special

Not only is Hervey Bay a relaxed family-friendly spot, it is unique in the world both for whale migration and the spectacle of whale watching. The whale watching experience available in Hervey bay is due to a combination of factors that come together.   Humpback whales migrate annually up the east coast of Australia, from cold Antarctic waters to the tropics to breed and give birth.  On the trip south, the perfect water temperature, along with the shelter of Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island), create an ideal environment for mothers to feed their new calves, and for other whales to rest and play on the 10,000km trip back to the Antarctic feeding grounds.  Whales can stay in the bay for up to 10 days and this sort of stop-over does not happen anywhere else on earth, giving a perfect chance for us to see these beautiful animal in their environment.  And this magical place is just over 3 hours from Brisbane!

Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere

Knowing more about humpback whales enhances the experience and I strongly recommend a trip to the Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere before going on a whale watching tour.  You can see in the video further below, how much the kids learned from coupling the two experiences together. 

Life-size humpback whale sculpture at Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere

Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere

Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere

Food

We ate at many different places on the Fraser Coast (you can find pictures of the yummy meals on my Instagram feed), and there was one spot that stood out for its friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere: Bistro Aubergine.  This cafe directly overlooks the Great Sandy Strait (just metres away where our whale watching tour departed) and the staff were beyond lovely.   Great spot for family eating; there was drawing and toys available for the kids too.  The photographs below were taken at the bistro and you an see how happy, relaxed and excited we were. 

family

family

motherhood in one picture

I packed a few themed toys for the kids for this trip (read about it here) and Mr 6 carried around the replica humpback whale everywhere this day. Loved seeing him so excited and engaged.

Whale watching Hervey Bay

Never underestimate the snippets of value you can weave into waiting moments.

waiting for whale watching

What I’m wearing

Spotted jeans: Liz Jordan

Shirt: Review

Boots:  Bared Raven boots in Burgundy

Green Jacket: Purchased at Southbank Markets in Brisbane

Great Sandy Strait Marina

Great Sandy Strait, Hervey Bay

Whale Watching Tour

The Tasman Venture vessel took us on our adventure.  Something I learned about humpback whales is their flukes are like our fingerprints: they are all unique and are used to identify and study returning whales each season.  Vicki from Tasman Venture can identify by name over 40 of the whales that frequent Hervey Bay.

The boat ride in itself was exciting

Whale Watching Hervey Bay

What to bring

  • Binoculars (although not essential given the frequency of up close encounters in Hervey Bay will help you spot breaching whales in the distance) 
  • A jacket or jumper (even though the day was lovely and fine, the wind factor on the boat can make it a bit chilly on deck)
  • Sunscreen/Hat
  • Camera/Video

Just look at the colour of the water surrounding Fraser Island!

Fraser Island

And it was topped off by THIS!

Whale Watching at Hervey Bay

And THIS!

Whale watching at Hervey Bay - Fraser Coast - Queensland

Incredible!  Incredible!

Whale watching season in Hervey Bay runs from mid July to the end of October each year. Whale sightings are plentiful during the season, and when I chatted with a local about it, they said “if you don’t see a whale on a tour, there would be something wrong!”   In fact, operators of whale watching vessels and scientists have noticed the number of whales coming into Hervey Bay has increased over the past 20 years. The simple answer for this is that Humpback whale numbers are improving after the cessation of commercial whaling: about 2,000 whales came into Hervey Bay in 1992, and almost 7,000 are expected in 2014 out of a migration of greater than 20,000; it is truly heartening to hear these statistics. Whale watching itself is closely controlled and there are strict rules in place to allow the whales their own space. 

Interestingly, 30 years ago Humpback mothers were very protective of their young around whale watching vessels, and yet nowadays they seem to like to show off the new calves and push them closer to the boats. This learnt behaviour demonstrates the trust involved from the whales and the extensive experience and care of the operators, it would appear this behaviour indicates whales enjoy ‘human spotting’ too!  

I enjoyed putting this video of the children’s responses together and seeing their smiles. It’s interesting the way they interpret and reproduce information in their own way.  Below is the long 5 min version (which I love), but if you’re interested in a snap shot, you can watch the short version here.

Eagle - Hervey Bay

Beach at Hervey Bay

a happy childhood

What stands out most to me about Hervey Bay is respect. There’s an undercurrent of respect for the unique beauty of the region and to see this honoured and embraced is encouraging and inspiring. I would go as far to say from my travel experiences, Hervey Bay would be on my top 5 must-visit places for families.  It has the beaches, the fun, the food, the interesting surrounding spots (like Maryborough) and the unique whale watching experience the family will never forget! Best.

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Bucket List: African Safari – Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park - South Africa

It’s coming up to a year since I was in Africa with my Dad, his wife, my sister, niece and two eldest daughters.  In many ways, I can’t believe we made it happen – it began with a casual conversations that turned into action.   Going to Africa well and truly cemented my love for travel and the desire to provide my children with these types of experiences as much as within my scope.

Africa.  If I had to describe the parts I’ve seen in a few words, I would say there’s a song. There’s a hum. The earths sings.  And it cries sometimes.   There is something in Africa that I think we may have lost a little here in Australia through our culture and the pursuit of material goods, success maybe…even happiness.  And it’s that connection with the earth and moving with its song.  There’s soul in Africa and there’s something about the earth that makes you want to pick it up and hold it in your hand.  My sister was in Lesotho in 2008, and shared some of her experience with the country here

We spend most of our time in a small mountainous country called Lesotho; if you’re interested, you can read about what led me there here: Africa – The Path that Led Me There. While we were in Lesotho, my daughters and I did an amazing Pony Trek. Then, before we came home again, our party went to Kruger National Park in South Africa for a Safari. Couldn’t leave Africa without a Safari!

Kruger National Park Safari

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,633 square kilometers (7,580 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometers (40 mi) from east to west. (Wikipedia)

There area a few ways to explore Kruger: you can do guided tours or grab a map and make your own way around in the car.  We did our own thing, although we did book an night tour one evening.

We had three days to explore and packed water and food of a morning and went on our way!  You do spend most of the time in the car, making strategic (and safe) stops at the designated areas.  We spent hours gazing over the landscape, through trees and past water ways for glimpses of animals in the wild. It was amazing! The days we spent driving in the park and at night, we stayed outside the park, close by at the Kruger View Backpackers Lodge which was has a great vibe, is comfortable and affordable (plus the food was fabulous!).  There is accommodation available inside Kruger too.

What to take

Camera

Note pad and pencils (a clipboard or folder would be idea to hold maps and guides)

Binoculars

Water & Food (there is food available at the cafes inside Kruger but it can be a long time between stops)

Sunscreen (even though you are in the car, the sun can get you)

Wipes (for cleaning hands)

Music

Plan

It’s best to do a general plan for each day using the maps and guides.  At the front gates, there is a map with spotting indicators if you’re looking for a particular animal.  There are no guarantees (that’s the beauty of it) but it can be a good place to start. You can’t just get out anywhere to pee (or you might be eaten by a lion – ha!) so strategic toilet/break stops are a must.  For us, who were staying outside Kruger, it was important that we reached the gates before closing time (we came close one day)!

What We Saw

I aim to make a book of our adventures so I was looking through some of the photos and want to share them here.  As you can see from some of the photographs I snapped below, we saw a huge variety of animals, and up close too!  The only real disappointment was not seeing a lion, but that’s all part of the beauty of animals in a wild environment.

Zebra

The Zebra was my favourite. They are stunning in all their stripped glory! LOVE

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Zebra

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Zebra

Elephant

We saw a lot of elephants. It’s rather surreal watching them meander across the road.

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Elephant

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Elephant

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Elephant

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Elephant

Giraffe

After the Zebra, the Giraffe is the next favourite of mine. I have a thing for pattern! To see them galloping along the plains was absolutely incredible! Beautiful, beautiful creatures!

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Giraffe

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Giraffe

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Giraffe

Antelope

We saw heaps of antelope, especially Impalas.  In fact, we saw so many Impalas (when we wanted to see a lion) that we made up a silly song.  I love the picture of the pretty Kudu hiding behind the shrubs.

 Impala

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Gazelle

 Bushbuck

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Bushbuck

Kudu

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Kudu

Blue Wildebeest

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Wilderbeast

Other Mammals

One of the fantastic things about a safari like this is the spontaneity: you just never know when you might spot something.  Out of the trees skulked a hyena, just like that walking past our car, then back into the bushes.

Warthog (or PUMBA!)

 

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Warthog

 White Rhino

Kruger National Park - South Africa - White Rhino

 Hippopotamus

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Hippo

 African Buffalo

Kruger National Park - South Africa - African Buffalo

Hyena

Kruger Nationa Park - South Africa - Safari - Hyena

 Monkeys

Ah the monkeys! We came across a troop of Vervet Monkeys and pulled over to watch them for a while. They appeared to be playful and energetic.  The baboons were flat out cheeky!

 Vervet Monkey

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Vervet Monkey

Baboon

Kruger National Park - South Africa - baboon

 Birdlife

Lion King!  It’s Zazu! At a rest stop, the girls were able to get up close to a Yellow-billed Hornbill. 

l Park - South Africa - Yellowbilled Hornbill

Yellow-billed Hornbill

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Yellowbilled Hornbill

Glossy Starling

Kruger National Park - South Africa -   Glossy Starling

Cape White-Eye

Kruger Natinoal Park - South Africa -   cape white-eye bird

Blue Waxbill

Kruger National Park - South Africa -   blue waxbill

Red-Bill Hornbill

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Red-bill Hornbill

Bird of Prey (couldn’t tell but it was huge!)

 Kruger National Park - South Africa - bird of prey

Cheetah & Leopard

We saw a Leopard in a tree across a river using binoculars. It was well camouflaged in a tree. And then, on the last day, as we were heading out, we spotted a coalition of cheetahs which was exciting. (Yes, I did look up the animal group names – ha!).

Can you spot the Cheetahs on the dirt mound?

Kruger National Park - South Africa - Cheetah

Africa was an incredible experience and I was glad to share it with my daughters. I leave you with this tree I spotted with a heart branch center. Africa: until next time our paths cross.

Love heart tree - Kruger National Park - South Africa

 Is an African Safari on your Family Bucket List?

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Posts from Africa

A Penny: Economics 101

This series of posts follows Fi and her family as they plan a 6 month family getaway to Uluwatu, Bali. If you want to know more or catch up on previous entries, visit the first post in the series here: Family Tropical Adventure in Bali.

Guest post by Fiona from Destination Bali

bali adventureEconomics 101 (otherwise known as the boring bits).  A Lot of people have been asking about this topic. Maybe the finance part of our trip to Bali is the thing that can bring our dreams to a grinding halt.  Below is list of what we need to pay for and how we plan to do it. It’s easy to talk big when it’s only in 8pt font. I do feel like I am airing dirty drawers in public here (not that I have dirty drawers…)

The big stuff

House/mortgage: We are renting the whole kit and caboodle to some lovely family who will love it as much as we do.  Hopefully it will be for slightly longer than the straight six months (we haven’t done too much about this yet as it’s too soon).

Tickets & Health insurance: Tax refund

Passports: One per month for 5 months

Accommodation: Our savings

Spending money: We are selling the car before we leave

Seems like a lot of money but it’s still the same price as if all 6 of were to go to Disneyland for 2 weeks!  We are trying to pop a bit away each month and save from all the extras we no longer need as we keep saying, “When we are in Bali…”

Feel free to ask more if you would like to know.

Did you hear about the earthquake in Bali?

Read the other posts in this series (in order):

1. Family Tropical Adventure in Bali

2. A Walk: 6 Months on a Tropical Island

3. A Tree: The Journey Begins

4. A Place: The How and The Why

5. A Scare: The Highs and the Lows

6. A Drama: Lemonade from Lemons

7. A Mistake: Why not easily fixed?

8. A Preview: Of things to come

A Scare: The Highs and the Lows

This series of posts follows Fi and her family as they plan a 6 month family getaway to Uluwatu, Bali. If you want to know more or catch up on previous entries, visit the first post in the series here: Family Tropical Adventure in Bali.

Guest post by Fiona from Destination Bali

This week has been a week of highs and lows.

Some Lows

We paid for our accommodation and had it confirmed (a high), and then there was a huge payment taken out of our account (it’s absolutely amazing that we had anything in it actually!) followed by a fraud warning from the bank. It was a a big stress but it all was sorted after a very long 48hours

On other lows: our computer completely packed it in, and I thought we lost all of our files.  Fortunately, later it was retrieved by a fabulous person  who saved us. Hmm, I hope that doesn’t happen in Bali.

There has been lots of talk about our pets and where they will be housed while we are gone.

  • 6 chooks (the girls): all sorted
  • Charlie Sparkle the rabbit: sorted
  • Chilli the cat: may be a little tricky. Our lovely neighbour will happily look after him as she does when we go camping.

* A question: Do you think it’s irresponsible to leave our cat Chilli (a very independent cat) in the care of someone who loves him very much? This means he can stay in his own home  but as our neighbour is 90, I am a little wary of long term plans…

animals

There has also been a health scare for us that we are not quite though yet.  This does make plans seem a little shaky…

On the Highs

Three fantastic blogs were sent my way. They are inspiring families who have had adventures of their own. Here they are:

Foxs Lane: This blog follows a mum, her farmer and her 3 kids on an amazingly colourful and creative tip around Australia in the most stunning caravan!

Foxs Lane Blog

Oh Happy Day: Mum of 2 spending a year in Paris. How fabulous! But I’m pretty sure surfing was not on the must list (like it was on ours).

Oh Happy Day Blog

Design Moms: A designer and mum of 6 who is spending a year abroad in France.

Design Mom Blog

All of these blogs have creative mums at the helm and I find this really, really exciting.

I’m focusing on thinking about the sun we will enjoy in Bali, and how I won’t have to buy jeans for everyone for next Winter at the sales because we won’t be having one! As I said: the highs and lows.

Always end on a high note…

patonga

Read the other posts in this series (in order):

1. Family Tropical Adventure in Bali

2. A Walk: 6 Months on a Tropical Island

3. A Tree: The Journey Begins

4. A Place: The How and The Why

5. A Scare: The Hights and the Lows

The Car Box

A Car Box that lives in the boot.  So we can get out and about as a family and enjoy amazing adventures at whim.

Possible items to include:

The Car Box

  • Sturdy box, basket, soft-sided box or sturdy bag: to store everything
  • Batteries: a few different sizes is a good idea
  • Trailer tarp: for picnic rug, a slip and slide etc.
  • Wipes: great for sticky fingers and other messes
  • Bin Liners/Plastic Bags (I fold my plastic bags so they are perfect for travel — tutorial here)
  • Rain coats: Cheap plastic ponchos do the trick.
  • Exercise book
  • Pen
  • Scissors: fold-able
  • Small towel
  • Tennis balls: great for the park or beach
  • Stackable tumbler cups
  • Duct tape: For MacGyver moments
  • Torch: A wind up one that does not need batteries
  • Band-aids
  • Sunscreen
  • Tissues
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Panadol/Nurofen
  • Fold-able shovel
  • Collapsible bucket: for fishing, collecting shells, washing sandy feet, collecting leaves
  • Safety pin
  • First Aid Kit
  • Frisbee
  • Spare (old) clothes/underwear
  • Hats
  • Folded plastic bags
  • Large zip-lock bags
  • Small plastic figurines: for imaginative play out and out
  • Fold up br0lly

When’s Daddy Coming Home?

I’ve endless blogging material available to me everyday; however, I thought it would be interesting to see what readers wanted to hear about.  I received the following request from SquiggleMum.

Dear Be-A-Fun-Mum,

My hubby has recently been promoted at work and will now be flying around a lot more with his job.  My kids adore their Daddy and will really miss him when he’s away.  Can you share any tips on how to still manage to be a fun mum when daddy/hubby is away?

Thanks!

Bless you heaps,

*****************************************

Dear SquiggleMum,

Fathers bring a different and important approach to parenting.  Stability, energy and authority are some of the qualities Dads can bring.  Thus, when Daddy is missing from the house, it can be challenging, not only for the child/ren but for the spouse as well.  Drawing from my experiences of having my father away for long periods and my husband frequently having to travel for work, I have these tips for others walking a similar road.

1.  Make a nail calendar

My ABSOLUTLE FAVOURITE tool is a nail calendar.  It’s a fun activity Dad can do the child before he goes away.  All that is required is a block of wood, nails and a hammer.  The child may like to decorate the piece of wood with collage or felt pens before the nails go in.  The idea is for Daddy to hammer in as many nails as he will be away.  Then, a nail comes out everyday until he is again home and there are no nails left in the wood.  It gives children a tangible way to understand time periods and gives them something fun to do each day.  If hammering nails in wood is not your thing, a piece of paper with boxes to cross off also works well.

wood nail

2.  Ring to say goodnight

If possible (and this will depend on time zones) Daddy can ring every night to say goodnight.  When my husband is away, he often prays with and tells our children a story over the phone.  A great tip is to buy two copies of your child’s favourite book; one for Daddy to take away with him and a home copy.  This means the child can follow along with him as he reads.

3.  Invest in a webcam

If Daddy is away for weeks at a time, it’s a great idea to invest in a webcam.  Earlier this year, my husband went to New Zealand for 5 weeks.  For the children to see his face and hear his voice was very important.  It gave them a sense of him still being around.  Although, you may find, as I did, that the little ones wonder how Daddy got to be inside the computer. :)

4.  Kissing photo

Print a photo of your child with their father and stick it on their bedroom wall.  Daddy can then kiss the picture for as many days he will be away so the child can then collect the kisses from the picture.  This works especially well for girls.

5.  Try and keep a routine in place

 Most Sunday afternoons, our family goes down to a local park to play soccer with friends and family.  While my husband was away, I still made the effort to continue our family routines so the children felt stable.

6.  Importance of support

Parenting exclusively for a period of time can be extremely draining.  It’s important to have support for when your spouse is away.  Take up offers from family and friends with cooking and babysitting.  If you are able, try and get out once a week on your own.

7. Emotions 

Don’t be surprised if  your child is more upset when their father leaves for the second trip. Reassurance is the key and continuing of some of the tips above.  Also, if your child is very young, you may find they are hesitant about going to their father soon after he comes back.  Give this some time and they will be fine. 

I hope you find some of these tips helpful.

External Links

How to Travel With or Without Kids

Be A Fun Mum Links