HERVEY Bay's humpbacks put on a stunningly playful show for a pair of American visitors on the first official day of the 2012 season.
Nancy Friesen from Kansas and her son Wayne, who is living and working in Brisbane, spent Saturday aboard the Spirit of Hervey Bay.
They were delighted to see several giant creatures of the deep breaching and swimming underneath the boat.
It was a pleasant surprise, given that they'd been warned on the first trip of the season the whales could be a no-show.
Mr Friesen said he wanted to do something he'd never done, so he brought his mother to the Bay for the weekend whale watch expedition.
"A couple of them swam directly underneath the boat so we got a really close view," he said.
"One was doing a lot of breaching - jumping out of the water.
"It was a fantastic trip."
Mr Friesen plans to bring a work group back to do a whale watch tour next month.
More than 14,000 humpbacks are expected to swim past the Fraser Coast as part of their annual migration.
Hervey Bay Whale Watch owners Brian and Jill Perry reported a successful start to the season, with about 40 spectators aboard their vessel Quick Cat II on Saturday.
They also began daily trips for the boat That's Awesome.
Whales were seen around the northern tip of Fraser Island.
"It was a bit windy, but it's been a great start to the season," Mrs Perry said.
"A lot of people said they would come back in August or September when we've got mothers and calves out there."
Mrs Perry said many operators did discounted trips for locals.