Wildlife – Seals, Whales and Dolphins
The ocean and bays around Freycinet Peninsula support an amazing variety of marine life. In addition to the abundant sea birds and countless fish, incredible marine mammals are frequently encountered here.
Seals Ile de Phoque, a small rocky island off the coast of Schouten Island, is home to a colony of Australian fur seals. Your best chance of seeing these impressive animals up close is on a guided cruise. Seals are also sometimes seen swimming in the ocean or hauled out (lazing around!) on beaches and rocks along the shore. The much larger leopard seal is sometimes seen here as well, but is only an occasional visitor.
Dolphins Always a crowd favourite, common and bottle-nosed dolphins are often seen in the water around Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay. Bottle-nosed dolphins grow up to three metres in length and can weigh up to 300kg. They are dark in colour, with a pale grey underside. Common dolphins have a unique, pale hourglass pattern along the sides of their bodies and are smaller than bottle-nosed dolphins (1-2 metres long/200kg). Both species are commonly seen in small family groups of up to 12 individuals, but can gather in their thousands in the open ocean. If you’re lucky, you may even see them riding the bow wave of your cruise boat!
Whales Far removed from the dark days of whaling, Freycinet is now a haven for whales visiting these waters on their annual migration. Between May and October, southern right whales and humpback whales are often spotted off the coast and in Great Oyster Bay.
Prior to the peak whaling period between 1820-1880s, vast numbers of southern right whales would enter the bay to give birth each year. The whales were hunted to the edge of extinction but are now recovering. The name ‘southern right’ was given to these gentle beasts as they were seen as the ‘right’ whale to hunt for their high quality oil and blubber.
Humpback whales are more frequently seen on the eastern side of the peninsula when they migrate north during March and April and during their return journey during November and December. Pilot whales and orca are also occasionally seen here.