montague island tours

 

WILDLIFE OFTEN SEEN ON AND AROUND MONTAGUE ISLAND

Marine mammals feature as the most frequently seen wlidlife, other than birds, on and around Montague. The rich East Australian Current brings nutrients, baitfish and larger predator fish and squid to the waters immediately around the island. These in turn are preyed upon by the marine mammals.

Montague's famous FUR SEALS are a year-round feature. Viewed from the boat around the northern edge of the island, these animals peak in number around late winter and spring, with counts of more than 1000 regularly spotted. Numbers drop off to around 200 individuals after December. In recent years an exciting development has been observations of up to 8 baby seal pups from December onwards.

Two species of fur seals are year-round inhabitants. The more numerous AUSTRALIAN FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) is distinctive for its behaviour of sitting in tightly-packed groups on the rocks, often partly on top of neighbouring seals. NEW ZEALAND FUR SEALS (Arctocephalus fosteri) intermingle with the Australian Fur Seals but have a "body space" around them and are likely to bite any seal who gets too close.

Fur seals cool down by rolling on their side on the water's surface and waving a flipper in the air, which resembles a friendly wave as visitors approach the colony.

The seal colonies are very dynamic and move between different haul-out sites around the northern end of the island. A recent development has been a small group of up to 28 New Zealand Fur Seals permanently based at the extreme southern end of the island for the last 2 years.

Occasionally other seals are observed such as Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea), Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) and the carnivorous Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx).

With no resident predators such as large sharks, the seals at Montague are very much top-of-the-food-chain animals. A seal was witnessed being taken by Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) at the island some years ago, but this is a rare event. Their encounters with long-line fishing rigs and trawler nets, as well as a habit of playing with flotsam and jetsam leads to many deaths through swallowing hooks and having tight necklaces of rope which eventually prevent feeding.

Popular with tour participants and with snorkelers and divers, the sight sound and smell of the seal colony is a highlight of any visit to Montague.

WHALES (order Cetacea)

COMMON DOLPHINS (Delphinus delphis) is one of the smaller members of of the Cetacean order, and are regularly observed during trips to Montague. Their habit of dramatically changing direction to swim right up to ride the bow wave of the boat, sometimes for quite a long period, makes for spectacular, up-close interaction. These can sometimes be observed in huge pods anywhere from just outside the port of Narooma to the bays of Montague and further out to sea.

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS (Tursiops aduncus) are more often seen close to Narooma, but exhibit the same playful bow-riding behaviours.

HUMPBACK WHALES (Megaptera novaeangliae). The island is directly in the path of the east Australian population of this species as they migrate in spring southwards to Antarctica. A feature of the early part of this migration is the whales feeding on shoals of krill and fish just off the island. To a lesser extent in early winter, the whales also pass by as they migrate northwards to warmer waters off Queensland to breed. All tours will feature whale-watching in season, with Spring being the optimum time.

Listen to amazing whale sounds recorded around Montague Island or view some amazing footage by going to our Video and Sounds page (menu above).

OCCASIONAL VISITORS AND SIGHTINGS

KILLER WHALES (Orcinus orca) are seen several times a year but are not regular visitors despite the seal colony being a potential food source.

MINKE WHALES, FIN WHALES, SEI WHALES, PILOT WHALES have been observed during tours, but are not as boat-friendly as the Humpbacks, and are generally just "passing through" on their way to somehwere else.

OCEAN SUNFISH (Mola mola) This strange fish can be observed at any time, though spring seems to have the most sightings. Many people mistake its huge fin poking out of the water for a shark at first.

GREEN TURTLES (Chelonia mydas) These animals drift down the coast with the current and each year Pebbly Bay on the western side of Montague seems to play host to at least one of these creatures.

See our Wildlife Calendar for best times!

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