Swimming with Dwarf Minke Whales
Swimming with dwarf minke whales is an unforgettable experience, which will stay with you for life. These naturally inquisitive mammals are seemingly attracted to boats and people, coming up close to inspect the newcomers to their marine world. They command the terms of their interaction. They may stay just a moment, or spend minutes and sometimes even hours circling swimmers and divers in the water.
Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the few places in the world where you can swim and dive with the dwarf minke whales. It’s highly regulated, to protect the people and the whales, and provides the most amazing opportunity for a natural marine encounter.
The small, but important, swim with the dwarf minke whales’ tourism industry operates exclusively on the Ribbon Reefs between Port Douglas and Lizard Island. It’s the only of its kind in Australia and operates during an extremely limited season, timed to coincide with the annual migration of the dwarf minke whales.
The Best Time to See Dwarf Minke Whales
The best time to see the dwarf minke whales is between June through to August. This is when specialised ‘swimming with dwarf minke whales’ trips have scheduled departures from Cairns, Queensland. While little is known in regards to the detailed pattern and pathway of the dwarf minke whales’ migration (more below) their arrival in the Ribbon Reefs is consistent between June to August.
Indeed, so reliable is their arrival into the north that some operators have been providing swimming with dwarf minke whale trips annually since 2006, with a 98% success rating of finding and swimming.
The Best Places to Swim with Dwarf Minke Whales
The best places to swim with dwarf minke whales is on the Great Barrier Reef’s Ribbon Reefs, between Port Douglas and Lizard Island. Boats providing the unique swim with dwarf minke whale experiences, depart from Cairns (liveaboard trips) with set departure dates in June, July and August.
Obviously, being a natural experience provided by a wild creature, we cannot always guarantee sightings and encounters, even when we’re visiting the ‘best places’ at the ‘right times’. What we can confirm, is that most sightings and experiences occur on Ribbon Reef 10 (Lighthouse Bommie) between June and July.
Dwarf Minke Whale Facts
Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whale family. That does not mean they are ‘small’ in relation to people. The largest reported female dwarf minke whale was around 7.7m long, with the largest reported male coming in slightly shorter at 6.3m. Adults can weigh up to 5.6 tonnes.
In appearance, the dwarf minke whales are beautiful, with a dark grey back and ivory white belly. Their sides are a blend of the two colours, in a mixture of blazes, saddles and streaks, which also includes their flippers. They are believed to breed annually, reaching sexual maturity between six and eight years of age. Calves are believed to be about 2m long at birth and will nurse for several months. It is highly unusual for anyone participating in a swimming with dwarf minke whales experience to see a mother with her calf.
The Migration of the Dwarf Minke Whales
The dwarf minke whales migrate along Australia’s east coast annually, with a reliable aggregation in the Great Barrier Reef’s far northern Ribbon Reefs, each winter. It is believed the population that visit the Ribbon Reefs start their journey in the sub-Antarctic waters, making their way along Australia’s east coast, encountering people and sightings particularly on the Great Barrier Reef before ending their journey in the far northern waters between Port Douglas and Lizard Island.
There is also a possibility that some of these whales may disperse into the South Pacific. Research into the migratory patterns and pathways are ongoing, with new information being discovered about the dwarf minke whales each year.
Cairns Dwarf Minke Whale Trips
Cairns dwarf minke whale trips are provided on liveaboard dive boats, which travel up to the Ribbon Reefs to provide exclusive, in-water experiences and encounters. These dive boats have multi-day itineraries, lasting anywhere from 3 days 3 nights to 7 nights and 8 days. Day trips are available with departures from both Cairns and Port Douglas however these are not dedicated minke whale trips but do offer travellers frequent sightings throughout the season.
Booking a Swim with Dwarf Minke Whales Trip
Dive in Australia is pleased to provide an easy booking service for all swim with dwarf minke whale trips. Save money with no booking or credit card fees. We have experienced these trips and offer first-hand advice. We will help you choose the operator and destination to best suit your experience and itinerary. Contact us today or FREE CALL 1800 323 703
As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak all day tours, liveaboard trips and dive course programs have been suspended Australia wide until further notice. Dive in Australia now offers live availability functionality for a number of our trips however we request until we have been advised by the Australian Government that tour operators can recommence their operations we ask you to please contact us first before planning to book any future travel.