Teamwork is crucial to the success of any business – particularly when you’re in the middle of the ocean surrounded by 40 tonne cetaceans! Blue Dolphin skipper Peter Lynch has been running whale watching tours out of Hervey Bay for 21 years, so has become a dab hand at sourcing passionate and caring crew who complement his many years of experience. Let’s meet the lucky pair who landed what many would consider a dream job…
Bec is originally from the Gold Coast, has a degree in conservation and has spent the last two years living and working on Stewart Island, New Zealand (brrr!). This is her second season on Blue Dolphin, and it’s not just the warm weather that’s brought her back to Queensland.
Bec – you’ve escaped another brutal South Island winter! Are you happy to be back in Hervey Bay?
Very happy! It’s nice to wear sandals and a t-shirt to work. The whales are an added bonus as well, of course!
There are a number of whale boat operators in the Bay. Why did you want to work for Blue Dolphin?
The vessel is a lot smaller than all the other boats, which was a huge factor for me! You can interact with Pete and the guests a lot more. It’s also a full day cruise, which gives me time to get to know the passengers onboard and enjoy the whole day with them.
Location, location, location…watching friendly humpbacks frolic in the waters around UNESCO World Heritage listed Fraser Island is just one of the perks of the job. What do you enjoy most about working on Blue Dolphin?
I love interacting with the customers. We seem to attract very passionate guests who make me feel a little more normal when I’m waving and talking to the whales…! The Blue Dolphin family as well – Pete, Jodie, their kids and fellow crew member Cassie – are amazing, beautifully-natured people. They make working for the company fun and exciting!
Pete is an incredibly successful small business owner who regularly appears on the local news and wildlife documentaries. What’s he like as a boss?
He is a great boss. You can always crack a joke with him onboard and we banter back and forth. His passion for the wildlife is a great quality to see in a boss, and it definitely rubs off on myself and the guests. Most of the time, I wouldn’t really call him a “boss” – he’s more like a whale weirdo friend.
Customers often joke that they can’t believe you get paid to watch whales all day! But there’s plenty that goes on behind the scenes – what else does the job entail?
The job is super hard work! There are definitely times where I get to watch the whales and enjoy their show, but as a sole crew member, it can be very busy and tiring! Lots of food prep, making sure the customers are comfortable, meeting all their needs, searching for whales and lots and lots of dishes (there’s no room for a dishwasher down in the galley). It’s all very worth it though! If we ever run into some friendly whales when I’m washing the lunch dishes, Pete always lets me know so I can come upstairs and have a look.
What have been the highlights of this year’s whale season?
I love the whale singing! I’ve had one day this season so far when I was down in the galley prepping the lunch and I could hear a male’s song – squeaks, grunts and whistles – through the hull of the boat! It was incredible. I was so excited, I even got a few guests to come down and listen. Pete put the hydrophone in the water and we got to hear it through the speakers. That was a great way to start lunch.
You’re generally as excited as the customers (if not more!) when a friendly whale puts on a bit of a show. What is it about whales that brings out your passion for the natural world?
It’s just so incredible to observe these huge, enigmatic animals showing such an interest in us. We go out there to watch them, but I swear some days they are there to watch us! It’s such an amazing interaction to have with a completely different species.
The low passenger numbers (usually no more than 25) is part of the appeal of a day onboard Blue Dolphin. Does this make it easier to get to know your customers? Any memorable encounters?
Yeah, definitely. It’s really nice to chat to people and find out where they’re from, why they came here and where they’re going. I do seem to spark up some really cool conversations with people! We’ve had some great kids onboard that really care about the environment and marine wildlife. It’s so cool to see this passion at such a young age. I had one little girl tell me she wanted to go down to Antarctica and stop the whale hunters herself, and she was only 11!
If you were a whale, which species would you be and why?
A sperm whale! For sure. They must see some pretty cool things diving three kilometres below the surface.
Anyone who has been on Blue Dolphin with you can see your fascination with cetaceans and the diverse marine life around Fraser Island. But are there any animals you’re not a fan of?
Being a zoology major, I do have a huge passion and love for all animals. I have a weird fear of the Atlantic goliath grouper though…a bad snorkelling experience when I was young. We had lots of fish food around while I was swimming up on the Great Barrier Reef and I had one come real close to my face! If I know there are sharks below, I’ll jump in for a dive, but if I know there’s a grouper around, no thanks!
Alright – enough about whales. What are your plans after the season?
After the season I’ll be heading back to Stewart Island where I will carry on life as a Department of Conservation Ranger. Not excited for the cold, but I’m looking forward to seeing my amazing work team down there and the awesome wildlife we have around the island.
What’s life like on Stewart Island?
With penguins, kiwis and sea lions on your doorstep, it’s a pretty amazing place to live! The incredible landscape and friendly community definitely make it worth the cold climate! Not needing a car and with everything in walking distance, it’s a very relaxed and laid-back place to live (and visit!).
And finally, will you be back next year?
I would love to come back next year!! Hervey Bay, the amazing Humpbacks and the Blue Dolphin family have a very special place in my heart. I know I’ll be itching to get back as soon as I leave!
Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014
Winner “John Craig Gardiner Contribribution to Tourism” 2012 – Fraser Coast Tourism Awards
Winner “Whale Encounters Operator” 2012 – Fraser Coast Tourism Awards