The one place in the world you want to get mugged
FOR five months of the year, the chances of you being mugged in the Hervey Bay region are incredibly high - but in this case, it's a good thing.
Between Mid-July and mid-November, thousands of 'muggers' congregate off the Fraser Coast, surrounding boaties and exercising their impressiveness with show-off performances.
But these muggers aren't the regular money-chasing, hoodie-wearing bad guys.
Ranging up to 18 metres, the ones you want to encounter are the humpback whales that choose Hervey Bay as their playground every year on their annual migration.
As for the mugging itself, that's what the local boaties have dubbed the event where whales surround the boat, interacting and playing with the vessel and humans on board.
Marine scientists Wally and Trish Franklin, both doctors in their field, have been studying the whales in the region since 1989, and said this year about 4,500 humpback pods, or 12,000 individual whales, will cruise into the bay and use it as their "kindergarten, primary school, high school and university".
After spending breeding season at the Great Barrier Reef, the humpbacks' next port of call is Hervey Bay and first to the party in mid-July are the newly-pregnant mums.
"This is then followed by a younger cohort of whales aged between one to five years," Wally said.
"These young whales are very interactive with whale boats because they're busy exploring the environment, but in September and October, things change again.
"Mature females and the young cohort move out by the end of August and in come the mature females with new calves - only weeks or months old."
These "extremely surface-active" calves and their mums flow in and out of Harvey Bay up until mid-November, with the number of pods increasing progressively.
"You can go to Hervey Bay in any week from mid-July to mid-November and what you're likely to see is different from every other week which is what makes this a globally unique whale area," Wally said.
"There is nowhere else on earth like Hervey Bay."
Pods remain in the bay for about two weeks before heading off on their next venture south.
So what is it about this region that keeps the whales coming back year after year?
The sheltered waters are safe for the mammals to roam around and for calves to explore and learn about their world, how to interact with other whales and get up close with these foreign floating boats with humans at the helm.
Research indicates their ability to relax here means they are more likely to stay close to the surface instead of swimming long distances between breaths - which means more time showing off for us!
With about 75% of the whales in Hervey Bay being females, you may wonder where the males get to after they've had their fun at the Great Barrier Reef while the mums and bubs are hanging out in the bay…
"You could say they're still out on the prowl!" Wally laughed.
But we've got their sexual appetite, and the mothers', to thank for the growing humpback population in south-east Australia.
"When we started studying, we realised what humans had done to whales; we'd almost obliterated the whole population. We were reduced to 150 whales in the 1960s - taken to the edge of extinction," Wally said.
"To see it progressively growing - this year there will be about 30,000 whales on the east-coast - makes us feel blessed."
Get in on the action at Hervey Bay - the best place in the world to see these animals in action. And with Fraser Island, the world's longest sand island stretching 160km right on its doorstep, this is a region begging to be explored and enjoyed.
Come for the whales, stay for everything else.
For more information, head HERE.