OUR eyes are peeled, torsos stretched over the railing of Gold Coast Adventures' 32-metre-long catamaran. My camera dangles from my neck over the Pacific Ocean. The deep blue surrounds us except for the coastline of South Stradbroke Island.
We're about 15 minutes into our maiden whale-watching voyage. The giants of the deep are yet to make an appearance, but even then there's so much to see - luxury yachts, turtles skimming the water's surface, dolphins racing the boat, even the island set of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean instalment (unfortunately we didn't spot Johnny Depp). Already at least seven people have succumbed to sea sickness. Our host Mary offers them "show bags" but says she doesn't want them back.
The boat's engine fires up a notch and we're headed due north. The captain's spotted one. A spurt of water shoots from the ocean's surface about 300m away. There she blows.
As we get closer the captain shuts down the engines so we don't scare them off.
A juvenile humpback whips his tail in the air. He isn't afraid and swims ever so close to the boat.
Minutes later we are spoilt for choice - where do you look?
About five pods of whales surround us - some dotted on the horizon, others fearlessly putting on an acrobatic display of breaches, pectoral waves and tail flukes slapping the surface in mesmerising displays of poise and power.
The unique markings on their tails are used by researchers to identify the mammals, much like a human fingerprint.
The captain explains the cove between Coolangatta and South Stradbroke Island acts as a protected playground for the 20,000 humpbacks on their annual migration north between June and late October.
The numbers are phenomenal when you think just 30 years ago there were only a few hundred humpbacks left in the wild. Geographic location makes the Gold Coast one of the best places to go whale watching - it offers the longest whale-watch season in Queensland.
My first close encounter with these giants will remain etched in my memory - if the Gold Coast is this good, I can't imagine what Hervey Bay has to offer.
* The writer was a guest of QT Gold Coast and Gold Coast Adventures
There She Blows play and stay
Two night's accommodation at QT Gold Coast
Daily breakfast for two at the Bazaar marketplace
A half day whale-watching tour for two onboard Gold Coast Adventures, including morning tea and return transfers from the hotel to Marina Mirage.
Price: $297 per night (based on a minimum two-night stay)
Book: http://www.qtgoldcoast.com.au or phone 07 5584 1200
There She Blows is available until October 31, 2015.
HIGH TEA WITH QUIRK
IF YOU think sailing the high seas is good, you can't go home without trying QT Gold Coast's high tea, aptly named QTea with Quirk.
The macarons and eclairs are no dessert despite their appearance and what looked like a ham and cheese sandwich certainly is not.
The cherry red macarons are filled with a burst of goat's cheese followed by a lingering bite of basil on a bed of freeze-dried black olives.
The ham and cheese sandwich is actually sponge cake (the bread) and peach jelly disguised as ham, while the eclairs are filled with foie gras with dehydrated raspberries on top.
Price: $39 per person includes QTea for two served with tea and espresso coffee, or $54 per person includes QTea for two served with champagne perrier-jouet, tea and espresso coffee.
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