Whale migration is in full swing, but will Mid North tour operators be crushed by the COVID-19 rebound?

On board the Wave Rider, Anthony Heeney scours the ocean looking for clues that he is near some of the world’s largest animals.

The skipper is finally back on the water after the chaos of a global pandemic that has brought an abrupt end to the business of him and his wife Jodie, Port Jet Cruise Adventures.

As thousands of whales, mostly humpback whales, begin their long migration to Australia’s east coast, Mid North tour operators like the Heeneys are desperate to bounce back.

Anthony Heeney of Port Jet was worried about the future of his business when it was forced to shut down.(

ABC Mid North Coast: Myles Houlbrook-Walk


But he said the Port Macquarie company, which had five employees on JobKeeper, had found a way to stay busy during its lean season.

“There wasn’t much we could do to make money, obviously being closed, but there was still some maintenance to be done and childbirth costs. ”

It is not yet known whether the company could suffer another lockdown.

Two blue colored humpback whales come out of the ocean together
Up to 15,000 humpback whales will pass through Port Macquarie, and operators are hoping the “rock star” Migaloo will make an appearance.(

Provided: Jodie Lowe


“It would be a huge, huge (impact) on everyone – I feel for the Victorians,” Heeney said.

“As soon as we can all get vaccinated, I think that’s a good thing.”

Hopes to spot Migaloo, the “rock star”

Mr Heeney, like many in the whale watching and boat tourism industry, is hoping for a bumper season, including keeping an eye out for the beloved White Humpback Migaloo.

“[We’re] hoping for a big season – Migaloo always helps. “

Aerial view of a white whale starting to dive.
It is extremely rare for leucistic and albino animals, such as Migaloo the Whale, to reach maturity in the wild.(

ABC News


Whale-watcher Leigh Mansfield watches Port Macquarie Lighthouse almost daily during the northward migration, pointing tour boats in the direction of the famous whale.

A man looks through a pair of binoculars balanced on a tripod.
Leigh Mansfield thinks Port Macquarie is one of the best places for whale watching. (

ABC Mid North Coast: Myles Houlbrook-Walk


Mr Mansfield has seen whales for decades and said the magic of seeing “the biggest animals on earth” has never worn off.

Voucher program

Mr Heeney credited the NSW Government’s Dine and Discover program by providing some support for international tourists.

The voucher program was supposed to end in June, but with just $ 185 million spent of the $ 500 million offered, it was extended until the end of July.

Over 4 million people have downloaded the vouchers in NSW, but less than half have been redeemed.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Economic Development Director Liesa Davies said prior to the extension the program had been well received locally.

With a $ 459 million tourism industry in Port Macquarie alone and international borders set to be closed until mid-2022, local tour groups are depending on significant numbers of local tourists this winter.

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