Mug Shot

For decades, Norm Ingersole has been having a whale of a time with Narooma’s whales as skipper for Narooma Charters.
Humpback whale at Narooma

Getting mugged isn’t something that most people would aspire to, but for Norm Ingersole, it’s usually a positive experience.  The owner of Narooma Charters and Montague Island Tours gets mugged quite often–by whales that is.

“A whale mugging what we call it when they come up and around the boat, almost touching it. Sometimes, they are so close their barnacles scrape off on the boat,” he says.

Boat owners must stay 100m from whales, but sitting stationary means the whales follow their own rules.  In  Eurobodalla, the annual migration is most spectacular in spring, when from September to mid-November, when thousands of whales make their way back down the coast, typically passing Narooma on the inside track between Montague Island and the shoreline.

whale breaching near Montague Island

Adding to the spectacle is the fact that, by the end of the season, many are travelling with calves in tow.  

Norm, who has lived in Narooma for decades, and Narooma Charters have been whale watching since 1994. But ask him about the most whales he’s seen in a day and his answer is usually a laugh: the answer is in the many hundreds.

“One day a few years ago we were physically surrounded.  We had to go 10 metres then stop to wait for them to get past, then another ten metres and stop. Getting to Montague Island was horrendous,” he recalls.

whale breaching near Narooma

Still, there are a couple of whales he won’t forget. Narooma Charters have seen both (albino humpback) Migaloo and mini Migaloo while out on trips.

“When mini Migaloo was here in 2012, the mum was letting it swim right around our boat. We spent two and a half hours with it and I took 2500 photos!” he says.

A keen fisherman, Norm  started at Narooma Charters by working for its founder, who was the first to take whale watching tours in the area.  In 2013, he and his son, Nick, took over the business.

“Nick has worked on the boats since he was 16 years old. I would take him out as a deckie,” he says.

Norm Ingersole skipper of Narooma Charters

Today, both father and son take visitors out to see the whales in the season.  The day starts up on Narooma’s headland, looking for the whales to try to work out their route.

“That means when the trip starts we have a pretty good idea of where to head for,” he says.

He loves seeing the whales lunge feeding, usually on local krill or the disc-shaped Lion’s mane jellyfish. The latter has tentacles up to 10 metres long, making it the largest jellyfish in the ocean.

“Seeing the whales lunge feed is unbelievable. They open their mouth, take in a whole lot of water and then they filter it through, keeping all the food on their baleen plates that line the roof of their mouth,” he says.

For those who miss the whales, there’s plenty else on the water to keep them occupied in Narooma across the year.

“People love snorkelling with the seals from mid November until late May. We anchor in the bays at Montague Island, they jump off the boat with mask fin and snorkel and the inquisitive seals come and play with them. In March, the seal pups are very playful,” Norm says.

Top 5 things to do in Eurobodalla

tilba accommodation

As a long-time local, Norm  and Nick have plenty of ideas for things to do in Eurobodalla and they dont all involve boarding a boat!

  1. Snorkelling with seals at Montague Island. Book a charter to take a dip with the thousands of fur seals that live on the island.
  2. Go truffle hunting  in the winter with Gulaga Gold
  3. Visit the heritage listed village of Central Tilba and drop by the  Tilba Dairy Cheese Factory
  4. For a great day out with the family check out Mogo Wildlife Park and try feeding a giraffe!
  5. If your in Narooma over the summer time, book an evening tour to Montague Island and hang with the Little Penguins.