Photo supplied by Hervey Bay Whale Watch

Watch a whale underwater

OPERATOR Sean Morris couldn't be happier with the first trip of his new venture - a whale and dolphin-watching and eco tour business operating from Brunswick Heads boat harbour.

With a glassy sea and a cloudless sky, everyone on board the state-of-the art vessel was blown away by their experience.

“Only 300 metres from the bar we picked up four pilot whales and then a spotter at the lighthouse told us the humpbacks were coming through,” an excited Mr Morris.

“And on the way down there we ran into a pod of dolphins and they fell all over the boat. Then off Julian Rocks, two miles east, we were lucky enough to pick up a humpback which 'mugged' the boat. It came up beside the boat, circled, and swum underneath the boat.

“We've got a hydrophone on the boat and we dropped that over the side and we heard the whale song as well. It was amazing.”

With a 50-seater bus, Mr Morris picks up and returns passengers to and from Byron Bay.

Marine biologist Rowena Mynott is the guide for the two-hour tour on board the 38-person rigid inflatable boat.

“I do all the commentary. I was working at Sea World for three years in their education department and I have my own marine education company. It's great to be able to give our customers the right message about conservation,” Mrs Mynott said.

Byron Bay Eco Tours is unique in that it operates all-year round.

During the whale season - June through to the end of November - the company focuses on whale-watching trips and out-of-season conducts general tours of the Julian Rocks marine reserve. It has a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) - like a mini-submarine with cameras in the front and lights, and it is self-propelled from a joystick console. Attached to 50-metres of cable, it moves in the direction of the boat and its images come up on a huge LED screen on board the vessel.

“We will pull up at Julian Rocks and give people a view of the grey nurse and leopard sharks and Rowena will do a commentary related to the sea life, including turtles. She also talks about Mt Warning and the Byron Bay Lighthouse,” Mr Morris said.

Byron Bay Eco Tours employs six people, one of whom had been unemployed for four years.

“He was a professional fisherman and sold his permit to National Parks and Wildlife when the area was declared a marine park and he's been doing nothing for four years. He's a perfect fit for me because he has 14 years commercial experience, has crossed the bar 6000 times and can skipper my vessel,” Mr Morris smiled.

After an early midlife crisis, Mr Morris and his wife moved to the Northern Rivers and took up macadamia farming.

“It's always been my dream to have a business like this and after selling our farm at Tintenbar, I've been working for some time on getting it up and running. I've been thinking about this for a couple of years. I couldn't understand why someone hadn't been doing it like they do in Harvey Bay. And now it's all happening.”

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