TOP THREE: Whale watching business a tourism favourite
A HERVEY Bay business has been named the third best tourism experience in the country.
Glowing reviews for Freedom Whale Watching on respected travel site TripAdvisor led to the accolade, which business owner Susan Reid described as a "big surprise".
Not only was the business ranked third in Australia, it also came in at seventh across the South Pacific.
Mrs Reid said offering good food and personalised service were the keys to success for the business.
With less people on board than other whale watch providers, that allowed more personal attention, she said.
The business also spent longer hours out on the water, allowing for plenty of sight-seeing for tourists.
"That seems to be what people rave about, they have more time with the whales," Mrs Reid said.
"Because of the calm waters, the whales are happy to come close to the boat."
This year is the Reid's 11th season out on the water and one question always makes them smile.
"Some people ask if they will see whales today," Mrs Reid said.
With bumper numbers expected in the Bay this year, and with whale numbers rising steadily over the past decade, that was never an issue.
"There's plenty to see," she said.
Mrs Reid loves to see tourists' reactions to the whales each year.
"It can be very emotional for a lot of people," she said.
"Some people burst into tears.
"Some people are really in awe of them."
Mrs Reid said the experience changed all the time, from whales passing through that got up close and personal with boats, to watching mothers interact with their calves later in the season.