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Skipping work for a Whale of a time ..

Last Sunday night my mate Mel from Left of the Middle Photography messaged to tell she was going whale watching on Friday down at the bay (Port Stephens). I sent the obligatory abusive messages back complaining about work and not being able to go. Monday morning at work i decided to hit the boss up for a day off and managed to talk my way into a day off. Score! So i quickly messaged Mel to tell her she would be putting up with me after all on Friday.

We were heading out with the wonderful crew on Moonshadow – TQC Cruises, departing at 10am from d’Albora Marina in Nelson Bay, about 50 minutes to the North East of Newcastle. I met up with Mel and a few other photographers and we headed for the boat.

It was an absolutely glorious day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the port was almost like a lake – perfect conditions to be heading out of the heads in search of whales. The trip out of the port really is spectacular. As you exit the marina, you turn to the right and start to head for the heads passing a number of little bays/beaches along the way.

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Looking out to the heads.

As you go around the point you pass the Marine Rescue base, keeping sailors and boats safe out on the water.

Just before you exit the port you pass Tomaree Headland, where you can see some of the original fortifications made to protect the mainland from invasion during WWII.

The WWII gun emplacements and related structures on Tomaree Head were established from 1941 and form part of the remnants of a system of defence for the protection of Newcastle and Port Stephens – important enough to warrant its establishment as a separate fire command. It includes sites that were developed for heavy gun emplacements, light weapons and machine gun pits, torpedo tubes, search light stations, No. 20 Radar Station RAAF, barbed wire and stake defence, a command post and barracks and other miscellaneous buildings.

Once you’ve exited the heads you get a fabulous view of the spit and out to Shark Island and the old Port Stephens Lighthouse.

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The old lighthouse
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Looking back to the 3 beaches.

It wasn’t too long after exiting the heads before we spotted our first whale!

We spent the next little while following this little pod up and down the coast.

It’s always so hard to cull photos – so apologies in advance LOL

As we were traveling along with them we realised there was baby calf

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That little tiny light grey bump – that’s the baby calf nawww
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With the flick of a tail they disappear beneath the water.

As we headed back into port we detour via the seal colony. They were far less interested in than we were of them.

As often happens we were escorted through the heads by some dolphins.

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Dolphin escort.

Due to the depth of the port there is no heavy industry or big commercial activities, however there is a strong fishing fleet.

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One of the fishing fleet coming home.

We arrived back at the marina just before 1pm, with enough time to jump off and grab some hot chips, before we head back out again – yes we were doubling up and doing two whale cruises.

It took us a little longer to find a whale on our afternoon cruise, but none the less we did find some.

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Whale Tails, both thrilling and disappointing at the same time
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The ever wandering Albatross

It was a tail kind of afternoon …

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The slick / footprint of the whale helps to track where they might pop up next.

We had turned to make the trip home when in the distance we saw this little dude absolutely playing up a storm.

The captain made a beeline for him.

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Hello there

Thankfully he hadn’t worn himself out before we got there.

and to finish off a short video taken on the morning cruise.

thanks for stopping by.

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To Boat Harbour for Whales

The weather has been almost perfect this weekend – for a winter weekend, and its been a cold one this year! With winter cabin fever feeling like its taking over we headed north about 45 minutes to the edge of beautiful Port Stephens to Boat Harbour.

From the easternmost end of Ocean Parade in highest part of the suburb, adjacent to Tomaree National Park there are striking views of the coastline. On a clear day it is possible to follow the coast southwards to the horizon, well beyond the City of Newcastle (our home). It’s a popular spot for whale watching in the winter as they migrate north and today was no exception.

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The path leading out to the point was quite busy when we arrived.
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The view looking south, at the furthest point of the rocks you can see the magnificent Stockton Sand Dunes rising out of the landscape.
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The sea was rough but not wild like it can get here.

We had barely made it to the top of the walking trail and started to look out into the blue abyss before we saw what we had come searching for – a whale!

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Our first spotting for the day.

Quite a few pods passed by quite quickly and all on the move, not too much splashing around and certainly no breaching.

Then the pause, so i went hunting around for a few shots whilst we waited (and hoped) for the next pod/s to make their way past.

I always love the sea mist on the coastline, but find it hard to capture and even harder to edit. I was quite happy with these ones considering i had my 100-400mm lens on.

As i was hunting through the view finder for mist compositions the views of the Stockton Sand Dunes came into view, and i had to take some photos. The ripples and rises of the dunes are so clear. The two people standing on the rocks in the first picture provide some scale.

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Stockton Bight sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands.

Created thousands of years ago, they are the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and the dunes tower as much as 40 metres above the sea level. The Worimi Conservation Lands include over 25km of coastline – most of stunning Stockton Beach, which curves 32km from the Hunter River at Newcastle to Buribi Point in Anna Bay, Port Stephens. Behind the dunes is a forest of blackbutt and smooth-barked apple gums, with paperbark pockets.

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Stockton Bight sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands.
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Moon spotting in the daylight

And finally in the distance along Stockton Bight we saw another couple of pods approaching. Capturing whales with the dunes in the background was an absolute highlight and a shot i hadn’t really considered so i stoked.

Closer they came …

come on, keep coming  …

Can you imagine being the guy in the sea kayak or the fishing boat!

and closer they came …

and with the flick of a tail they were gone, and so it was time for us to go as well.

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Wave of the tail to say goodbye

What an awesome way to spend Sunday afternoon. Thanks for stopping by.

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Dolphins off King Edward Park

With the truck still at the car dealership getting its gearbox fixed our weekend plans had taken an unexpected turn, so we headed into King Edward Park, which is known for one of the best views in the city and also for its whale and dolphin watching vantage point.

The whales seem to be a bit quieter this year, or maybe we just haven’t had the same amount of time to stare out into the blue abyss hoping to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures cruising their way north for warmer waters.

Almost as soon as we pulled up we spotted a pod of dolphins playing in the waves. I grabbed my camera and shot off a few frames, thinking they would disappear pretty quickly.

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Dolphin Wave
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Dolphin Surfing

Whilst we were fixed on the dolphins we heard a plane, which isn’t that unusual as the park is on the flight path for the airport but this wasn’t a commercial jet – it was Matt Hall – famous Red Bull Racer. The Care flight chopper also decided to join in the fun.

The dolphins were still frolicking up and down the beach so i managed to get a few more shots and some video footage.

They were having so much fin chasing the waves, jumping and diving out the back of them.

We were sorry to see them finally swim off about an hour later.

This little guy had been sitting on the telegraph pole keeping an eye on us for a while.

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It’s possible he was watching for food, not us LOL

As the wind started to pick up, and the end of sunlight for the day was approaching we headed for home only to be greeted by these two beauties outside the front door.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

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Hunter Valley Zoo

We headed inland to what is known as wine country to the Hunter Valley Zoo for a social day with the Newcastle Sundance photography group.We had the most wonderful day chatting and catching up with everyone, and it made me realise just how lucky we have been to see so much of the world and so much wildlife in their natural habitats

I loved the zoo as a kid, seeing all the different animals and learning about them, but as I’ve got older and maybe a little wiser, and definitely because we’ve been lucky enough to travel, I’m not so sure anymore. There is still a part of me that loves watching the animals and watching the kids see their first lion, meerkat or koala and the grins on their faces and I hope that like me they wish to see them in their natural environments when they grow up, and because of that they will work to help save those environments and animals, but there is also the part of me that hates seeing them behind the wire and cages.

The rationalist in me knows that zoos (well most) serve an important part for many endangered animals through breeding programs, such as the African lions that Hunter Valley Zoo currently have. They were originally from Taronga Zoo and we’re successfully bred, and now their offspring are part of breeding program too.

The zoo is smallish but packs a lot into their space without it feeling cramped or overdone. Obviously there are lions (1 male 2 females), camels, antelope, sheep, goats, koalas, kangaroos, reptiles, birds, monkey’s, and the ever so cute meerkats, who at the moment have some babies and I can’t tell you how much cuteness their is baby meerkats.

It’s a great zoo for kids as the animals are easily seen, the kids can get up close and personal with sheep, goats, koalas, kangaroos and some of the birds. These attributes also make it pretty good for photographers too 😊

Here’s a selection of some of my shots from our day out:

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Bye Bye Bush

After a windy and damp night (outside not inside) we woke a little earlier packed the car up, checked out and headed into the park. it was a very overcast morning and was threatening to rain again. It wasn’t long after we entered the park that the rain started making it difficult to spot as i think the animals were hiding.

We made our way into the park and once the rain stopped we started to spot some animals. we didn’t see any cats even though it seemed like we looked under every tree, rock and down every creek humanly possible.

Our spotting for the morning included:

Elephant
Elephant
Wilderbeest
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Ostrich
Ostrich
Ostrich
Fields of Zebra's
Fields of Zebra’s
Frisky Zebra's
Frisky Zebra’s
Hoggies
Hoggies
Guinea Foul
Guinea Foul
Hippo's
Hippo’s

As we were headed back to the city, we left the park about midday and said bye bye to the parks and bush – for this trip. I love being in the bush here and i hate leaving it almost as much as i am going to hate getting on that plane on Saturday 🙁

We had decided to stop off in Hartbeespoort for a bite to eat and to check out the wares at the rather decent sized tourist trap trinket flea market. I shouldn’t bag it out too much, each trip we have headed there and picked up some nice stuff. We ended up buying a few items that we hadn’t gone in looking for but picked up some really nice pictures that we were looking for so i guess it all balances out.

We arrived home later in the afternoon to three very excitable little puppies who have been home ‘alone’ since Monday when we all left – Monica (house help) has been looking after them for Charmaine and Lance.

Copyrighted. All images and rights are reserved by Emma White ~ Photography. You are welcome to post via a direct link. Please do not crop, copy, reproduce or distribute in anyway without permission. If you would like to use any of my pictures – for personal, blogging or commercial usage – please contact me so that we can discuss what  options may best suit your needs. If you have any other questions, please drop me an email here