Humpback Highway: The Kimberley and the world’s largest annual whale migration

Did you know that, from June to October each year, the world’s largest pod of Humpback Whales, (an estimated 40,000 individuals) journey to the pristine waters of Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast to give birth in one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet?

From the Kimberley’s Camden Sound to the freezing waters of Antarctica, each year these majestic mammals make the 13,000km round-trip from Antarctica to the warmer waters of the Kimberley to birth calves before gradually making their way home to cooler waters, the newest additions to their pod in tow.

Humpback whales make a comeback in Australian waters

Research from 2016 shows that Humpback whale populations have rebounded to near pre-whaling numbers in Australian waters and are no longer considered a threatened species, with their conservation status currently under review by the Australian Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and The Environment. The increase is among the highest documented in the world and happily shows no indication of diminishing.

The review, conducted by an international team of collaborators and published in the Marine Policy journal, found the Australian humpback whales to be “an exemplary model of recovery, especially within a marine environment experiencing rapid and concurrent expansion in industrial and exploration activities”.

While the return of humpback whale populations is a marine conservation success story that we can be proud of, there is still work that needs to be done to protect whale populations. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) warns that bycatch in fishing gear is the biggest threat to cetaceans (aquatic mammals) today, alongside longer-term threats which are more difficult to quantify, such as chemical pollution and climate change.

Join the oceans largest mammals on an epic journey

Eager adventurers from all over the world love exploring the Kimberley by small ship cruise for many reasons. The Kimberley is well known for its impressive array of wildlife and one of the creatures on everyone’s must-see list has got to be the mighty humpback whale.

Onboard a Coral Expeditions Kimberley voyage in the late season months of July to September, we may spot pods of three or four giant whales, measuring up to 15 metres and weighing more than 30 tonnes. Our expedition leaders will call guests up to the deck to have a closer look as the captain idles the ships’ engine. The majestic mammals and their newborn calves pass by, offering lucky guests an opportunity to admire these magnificent mammals or take some photographs to capture the memorable moment. It’s as though the whales love nothing more than to say hello with their playful tail slaps and awe-inspiring breaches. Seeing footage of whales on television or reading about them can never prepare you for the sight of a whale and her calf in the water. When you see one of the largest living things that have ever swum in the ocean, it is a powerful and life-affirming experience.

Which Kimberley cruises showcase whale migration?

As with all encounters with nature, they are unpredictable. That is part of what makes it even more memorable when it happens.

Seeing whales in their natural environment is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many, and we are fortunate to get a glimpse of the tremendous marine spectacle that takes place on our Australian coastlines.

If you would like to experience the world’s largest humpback whale migration for yourself, now is the time to start planning your Kimberley cruise. With strong demand from domestic travel in current circumstances, it is important to secure your place early for 2022-23 cruises.

Whale Watching Kimberley