One curious visitor
A VERY close encounter with a baby humpback whale at Wategos at Byron Bay on the weekend was an unforgettable moment for Roisin Carolan.
And thanks to Lennox Head-based photographer Craig Parry, she can relive the magical moment over and over again.
"It was the most amazing experience," the Byron Bay surfer said.
"I still can't believe how close we got.
"I first noticed the whale when it was about 20 metres away, and I thought that I should move away from it.
"But it came up to me ... it was right next to me.
"At first I was scared, but it was just circling around us, it was checking us out.
"I have never been that close to a whale before - it was so incredible."
Mr Parry said the humpback calf seemed very curious.
He captured some spectacular aerial photographs of the whales over the weekend, and said there were still plenty heading back down the coast.
"It was really great to see how close people got," he said.
"I had a similar experience on my stand-up paddle board about two years ago.
"At first you see it from a distance, and it's normal, but then as it gets closer, it feels like there's an elephant underneath you.
"You can hear them groaning.
"Their whole presence is overwhelming ... it makes you feel quite vulnerable."
More than 16,000 humpback whales have travelled up the east coast to breeding grounds in North Queensland, and many are now making the return journey with their babies in tow.
Whale numbers are increasing by about 1000 each season, according to researchers.
To see more of Mr Parry's images of the whales at Byron Bay, visit http://www.craigparry.com.au