Sea-loving seniors are being transported into a virtual whale playground from the comfort and safety of their aged-care home as part of a new tourism initiative being rolled out in Hervey Bay.
The virtual tourism project, created by local whale watching company Whalesong Cruises, is aimed at bringing the iconic Humpback whale watching experience to everyone, especially those unable to board a vessel.
“Many of our 142 residents at Ozcare in Hervey Bay have spent a lifetime in Hervey Bay, marvelling at the mystery of our annual whale migration offshore, so this is a perfect way to reconnect with those joyful memories,” said Ozcare Diversional Therapist Jen Booth.
“Our residents have been enjoying twice weekly bus trips for ice creams and barbecues beside our beautiful bay, so they’re excited to get a virtual reality glimpse of the whales that have been frolicking off the coast.”
Whalesong Cruises General Manager Rebecca Greenshields said the company was building a case study to apply for council funding to enable the program to be rolled out across the region. “Our region was named a whale heritage site two years ago and to maintain that we need to engage with the community, so we see our program as one of the ways of achieving greater recognition outside of the tourism sector,” Ms Greenshields said.
“We are well-equipped to host wheelchair-bound people with ramps, wide decks and wheelchair-accessible toilets onboard, but we understand there are people who are simply unable to make it out on a whale watching trip.
“This program brings the experience to them through virtual reality headsets. We have taken 360-degree footage from onboard so viewers can look out on the water, on deck and to the sky. It is a very interactive experience and gives people a real sense of being onboard the boat.
“We are taking the whales to people who want to come out on the boat but can’t.”