Home Australia A Guide to Spotting Australasia’s Marine Wildlife Using Migration Patterns

A Guide to Spotting Australasia’s Marine Wildlife Using Migration Patterns

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A common bottlenose dolphin in the shallows

If you are hoping to see a particular animal in their natural habitat on your next visit to the ocean, it is important to know where you are most likely to find them. The migration patterns of marine animals can make it difficult to spot them in the wild but tracing their yearly movements can help you plan your diving schedule to increase your chances.

By Abbie Martin; photos copyright free

Australasian waters are home to a diverse array of species, so whether you’re looking to spot dolphins, sharks or whales, it’s likely you’ll come up-close to a majestic creature on a dive. Hayes & Jarvis (holiday (vacation) specialists) have developed a visual tool to make tracking your favourite marine wildlife simple. Here are the paths of the underwater creatures you can find off the coast of six Australian cities.

Heading to Perth?

Perth is a great spot to see blue whales and wobbegong sharks.

Although they are the largest animal of the Animal Kingdom, blue whales can be hard to find. They live off the coast of Perth from June to August, during the day they feed deep underwater and surface at the dead of night to breed. This is why late evening provides the best opportunity to see these huge animals in person.

Blue whale at the surface of the ocean

Humpback whales can also be seen here, as they pass Perth’s coast during this time of year. This species is known for its calming sounds or songs, which scientists believe are used to communicate with other whales and potential mates.

Spotted wobbegong sharks are typically found on the seafloor of western waters. The colourful and patterned shark is aptly nicknamed a ‘carpet shark’, these can be found on coral, rocky reefs and shallow reef, but may be difficult to find as their flat bodies and brown pattern make the perfect camouflage against predators, and unfortunately, divers.

Taking A Trip to Brisbane?

Brisbane features sightings of dugongs, leatherback turtles and snubfin dolphins.

Close-up of a dugong underwater

As the temperatures drop from December to February, dugongs can be seen on the coast of Brisbane before they head further north. Dugongs, commonly known as “sea cows”, are one of few vegetarian marine animals in the world and feed mostly on seagrass. With an average length of 2.6 meters (7.5 feet), they are gentle giants.

During their migration from the north Pacific Ocean to Sydney for feeding season, leatherback turtles pass the Brisbane coast in December and January. These are the largest sea turtle species and feed on soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish.

Brisbane is also home to Australian snubfin dolphins, however sightings of these dolphins are rare and so little is known about this species. They can be distinguished by their heads that can turn to face different directions from their body and are one of the few dolphin species without a beak. Although it is unlikely that you’ll come into contact with these remarkable dolphins, it might be worth keeping an eye out for them.

The Wildlife in Sydney

Syndey is home to common dolphins, leatherback turtles, and grey nurse sharks.

Common dolphins don’t migrate but swim along Sydney’s coastline to find food. The short-beaked dolphins will stay in deeper waters, whilst the longer-beaked dolphins prefer to be in shallow waters, and so are typically easier to spot in the sea.

The largest turtle in the world, the leatherback turtle, can also be spotted in Sydney. This species has the largest distribution of all marine turtles, and large adults are found year-round here in larger bays, estuaries, and rivers, and so Sydney gives the best chances of spotting these creatures, of all cities featured here.

Leatherback turtle on the beach

Grey nurse sharks visit Sydney to feed from March to May, before migrating north towards the Capricorn Channel near Yeppoon in July to August to breed in warmer waters. Also known as sand tiger sharks or spotted ragged-tooth sharks, grey nurses eat larger marine animals like squid, rays, and even smaller sharks. Whilst they look dangerous, they are actually a docile species, and only attack humans when they feel threatened.

Diving Off the Coast of Melbourne

Exploring the sea here, off the coast of Melbourne, will bring you close to Port Jackson sharks and blue whales.

Port Jackson sharks travel to Melbourne to feed from December to February and are noticeable with their distinct, harness-like design on their bodies, as well as their large, blunt heads. Although this species isn’t commonly spotted there, it’s named after the natural harbour, Port Jackson, in Sydney.

Two Port Jackson sharks on the sea bed

Melbourne is home to the largest creature in the Animal Kingdom, the blue whale. However, these can be hard to spot during the day as they feed deep underwater. The best time to come face to face with a blue whale is at the dead of night, as they surface to breed from June to August. Humpback whales also pass Melbourne’s coastline during this time but stay much further offshore.

Whale Spotting in Adelaide

Adelaide is the perfect location to visit if you are hoping to see a southern right whale in the wild.

Southern right whales can be recognised by the white callosities on their head and a long mouth, which begins above the eye, and an unusual lack of a dorsal fin; some of them live to be over 100 years old. Southern right whales usually migrate to Antarctica between December to February, and then to the Australian South Coast from June to August to breed.

Scuba Dive in The Warm Waters of Darwin

Darwin is home to multiple species of turtles and dolphins, and dugongs.

Turtles are often spotted in the northern shallows of Darwin. From March to October, green sea turtles head to the shallow lagoons in the Northern Territory to breed. Flatback turtles can also be spotted here between January and November, usually along the coastline or on the shore to feed on soft marine life.

Australian humpback dolphins should be approached with care or appreciated from a distance as there are only a few thousand left in the wild. They are vulnerable to fishing nets and tourists’ vessels. These creatures have a humped back and large dorsal fin and so can be noticed from afar. If you’re hoping to get more up-close, the common bottlenose dolphins are seen here more frequently and can be recognised by their grey or black backs and heads, yellowish sides, and white bellies. Again, common dolphins don’t migrate but will move around to find food.

The Northern Territory is one of the primary habitats for dugongs, as they migrate here for warmth and rest. Dugongs enjoy the warmer waters, making Darwin a great location to spot the animal.

The Migration Patterns of Australasia’s Marine Life

If you’d like to see the migration patterns or read more about these majestic creatures, Hayes & Jarvis’ interactive map can be accessed here.