When that first whale of the day spectacularly breaches high out of the water, there’s no one on Eye Spy more excited than the woman at its helm, Captain Kerry Lopez.
For over 20 years Kerry has been leading whale-watching tours out to the pristine waters of Moreton Bay, but admits "often I am the most excited passenger on the boat".
“Once you’ve experienced an eye-to-eye experience with a whale, it’s something you won’t forget,’’ she says."
Her environmentally-friendly high-speed luxury vessel, Eye Spy, launches each season from the Redcliffe Jetty.
Kerry, who is the only woman to captain and operate whale-watching tours in the South Pacific Rim, says her fascination with the behemoths of the sea started as a young child. “I grew up with a love of the beach and the ocean,’’ she says.
“When I was a little girl of about seven I had my first encounter with a whale, unfortunately it had died on the beach, but since that experience, and through my teen years, I became fascinated by whales.’’
Kerry enrolled in WA’s Fremantle Maritime College as the only woman in a class of 30 and after enough sea time, she earned her Master Class 4 Mariner Certificate.
Her love of humpback whales and her environmental interests led Kerry to establish Moreton Bay Whalewatching in 1996 — now operating as Brisbane Whale Watching.
Whale season from June to November draws more than 14,000 visitors to the Redcliffe Peninsula. Kerry says locals don’t need to travel as far north as Hervey Bay for a wonderful whale experience.
“It’s all at our own back door.’’ She says anyone can witness whales giving birth to their calves in Moreton Bay.
“The water temperatures are staying warmer in the bay and the whales are coming further south now to have their babies and we are observing more births.’’
Kerry says there are 40-50 whales in the bay on any day during the season, guaranteeing her passengers will see whales.
“In the 23 years I have been doing this, it’s the sheer number of whales that has changed the most. We are only one of two vessels in Moreton Bay. We can be stationary and 100m from whales. I like to say that they know my voice,’’ she quips.
“The reactions of passengers are priceless. They are in awe of these magnificent creatures. It’s a huge impact on people when 40 tonnes comes out of the water and passengers make eye contact with them.
“It’s such a spiritual experience. It’s wonderful to see people waving and the whales wave back.’’
Kerry is delighted by the positive environmental campaign to protect the whales. “Whales were hunted almost to the edge of extinction but it’s one of Australia’s huge success stories for animal protection. We are almost back to full recovery in whale numbers on the east coast.’’
Kerry is proud of her environmentally sustainable vessel and her eco-accreditation, noting the efforts she has taken to reduce her carbon footprint. Eye Spy has low exhaust emissions, and its quiet propellers encourage the whales to get closer, offering some amazing viewing opportunities.
Eye Spy is equipped with a drone that captures real-time moments for passengers. Kerry says one of the highlights came when a drone caught a whale giving birth under the boat. ”The passengers watching on board went wild, clapping and waving.’’
One of the most anticipated sights of the season is the first sighting of Migaloo, the white whale, who visits Moreton Bay every year.
“It’s amazing when he’s five foot away from people and all alabaster white,’’ Kerry says. “He’s half the length of the boat. It’s such a mystical sight. You really need to see it. ’’