For a taste of whale watching with a difference there’s only one place in the world where you can get up close and personal with one of our most timid underwater creatures, the Dwarf Minke Whale.


For a taste of whale watching with a difference there’s only one place in the world where you can get up close and personal with one of our most timid underwater creatures, the Dwarf Minke Whale.

In 2003 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority granted nine tour operators permits for “swimming-with-whales activities”, making Australia the only country in the world where you can actually dive alongside Dwarf Minkes. It’s actually called “passive diving”, where all of the contact is initiated by the whales. And these friendly creatures will, if you’re lucky, swim only a few metres away, just to, it seems, satisfy their own curiosity.

The Dwarf Minke was first identified as a distinct species in the 1980s and to this day little is known about their behaviour, biology or ecology; the tourism industry, operating in close collaboration with researchers, hopes to change all that. To ensure swimmers have a minimal impact on these graceful, timid creatures, tour operators have to follow strict guidelines. For example, on a Poseidon day cruise a line is laid out in the water for swimmers to cling to. Flash photography, weight belts or scuba gear aren’t permitted.

The Dwarf Minke is the second smallest baleen whale (its “baleen plate” filters food, as opposed to chomping with teeth) and grows to a maximum of eight metres. Your best chance of swimming with one is from mid-June to mid-August during migration season.

Where // The nine licensed tour operators departing from Cairns and Port Douglas are: Aristocat, Floreat Reef Charter, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, Nimrod Explorer, Poseidon Cruises, Silverseries, Reef Cruises, Taka Dive and Undersea Explorer. More info on (07) 4750 0700 or www.gbrmpa.gov.au  or www.minkewhaleproject.org

Did you know? // It’s thought that the life span of a Minke is calculated by counting the number of layers in a waxy plug near the eardrum, one gooey layer for each year!

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