The day I went whale watching
Yeoh Siew Hoon’s Sydney seaside escapade.
And sure enough, I saw two whales dancing in the water, close to a boat full of whale-watchers. And to think I didn’t even have to go to sea to experience it – just the luck of meeting a friendly Australian.
Before boarding, I sat in the Air New Zealand lounge looking at an ominous cloudy sky. As expected, the flight from Canberra to Sydney on a Dash-7 aircraft was rather bumpy due to a gathering storm. It seemed like a good time to leave and luckily Sydney greeted me with beautiful spring weather. Yes, Sydney put on her best party frock for me and nothing beats it when that happens.
The Lebanese taxi driver who drove me from the airport to Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney was full of beans. He couldn’t stop talking about what a beautiful home he made for himself in Australia, although he did lament about the slowdown in business though, as the high Australian dollar has taken a toll on visitor numbers.
You wouldn’t know it at Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney though, which enjoys good business from domestic corporate and leisure travellers. General Manager Franz Donhauser tells me that during weekends, Sydneysiders spoil themselves with a stay in the hotel and a meal at Altitude, a restaurant with possibly the best views in the world.
The view from my room takes my breath away as it always does. A full moon hangs over the harbour, and I can see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on either side. It makes you want to get out and about, and as tired as I was after the flight, I decided to stroll to the Rocks to take in the cool night air.
The next morning, my girlfriend planned a walk from Tamarama Beach to Bondi to see the Sculptures By The Sea exhibition. In its 16th year, this exhibition continues to grow and I was advised to avoid the weekend crowds. Even on a Tuesday, it was pretty busy – children out on school trips, tourists, locals – everyone took advantage of the beautiful sunny day to admire the artwork by the sea.
Our first stop was the Tent of Wonders where animal exhibits raise awareness of how hunting has affected animals such as lions, baboons and rhinoceroses. The faceless baboon freaked me out a bit, but I appreciated the point the artist made about apes being beheaded and their heads kept as trophies.
The coastal backdrop forms a fantastic canvas for the various sculptures and my favourites were those with a dash of humour or a touch of whimsy. See my Pinterest board for a tour.
After the sculptures, we head for Watsons Bay where we stopped to enjoy the ocean breeze, in need of respite after the crowds at Tamarama. My friend and I looking out over the cliffs when suddenly, we heard a voice call out, “Come on up and see the view from here.”
We looked up and saw a man in the signal station beckoning us. “Take the steps up,” he said, gesturing to a metal gate. We walked up a narrow flight of steps flanked by a wall of old photos charting the history of the first fleet to enter the bay and the men who left their mark over the years.
Philip introduced himself and invited us to look into his telescope. “If you look carefully, you can probably see the whales.” And sure enough, I saw two whales dancing in the water, close to a boat full of whale-watchers. And to think I didn’t even have to go to sea to experience it – just the luck of meeting a friendly Australian.
This is what I love about Australia – the wonderful personalities you meet. Philip is a volunteer coastguard who works in a signal station once a week. He was so proud of what he does and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. Thanks, mate.