Swim With Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef

admin on April 4th, 2023

Swimming with the Dwarf Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is an unforgetable experience - and the only place in the world where you can swim with them and experience the uplifting joy it provides.

Swimming with Minke Whale tours are limited to a small handful of licenced marine operators and only possible during a fleeting two - three month period out of the year.

Liveaboard Trips
Swim with Dwarf Minke Whale liveaboard expeditions are highly recommended if you are planning to visit Cairns and Port Douglas for a liveaboard dive and snorkel tour.  This is because you get all the features of an outer reef liveaboard expedition with the additional opportunity to see, and be in the water with the inquisitive Dwarf Minke Whales.

Day Trips 
Swim with Minke Whale Day Trips are available from Port Douglas, with optional transfers from Cairns.    Humpback Whales are also regulary seen (but not guaranteed) in the warm waters of Tropical North Queensland between July - September.

Private Charter
Enjoy a private, luxury dive & snorkelling charter PLUS experience the rare opportunity to swim with Minke Whales for an unforgettable encounter!  As one of the only private charter boats to hold a permit to swim with the Minke Whales, this offers you and your family and friends an unforgettable experience.  Based in Cairns this private charter boat operates Swim with Minke Whale expeditions during June - July with 5 or 6 night charters and optional return flights from Lizard Island for shorter charters.   

Up close with the Dwarf Minke Whales

Minke Whales are extraordinarily curious creatures, and for this reason they are commonly encountered up very close and personal, but under their terms of course.

The expeditions allow you to swim and be in the water if a Dwarf Minke Whale is encountered at any of the Great Barrier Reef sites the vessels are licenced to visit.   With strict limits on pemits for swimming with Minke Whales, the Day Trips and Liveaboard trips are in high demand for this amazing experience!  Abiding by strict codes of practice, a maximum of two surface ropes are placed in the water with swimmers with snorkel gear positioned 3 to 4 metres apart.

The Dwarf Minke Whales are very inquisitive, and find us interesting to look at. There is no need to follow them, they tend to swim up to snorkellers for a closer look of their own accord. They decide how close they want to interact and swim with us.  

And quite often their curiosity brings them in as close as up to a meter distance at times.  Common swim with Minke Whale interactions can last 90 mins up to 2 hours in most cases, with two or three in a pod. At other times, up to twenty.  Such an unforgetable experience!

Where & When Can You Swim with Dwarf Minke Whales?

The Minke Whale liveaboard expeditions have a focus on visiting a number of key reef sites where the Dwarf Minke Whales are known to travel during their migration, off the coast from Port Douglas and Lizard Island. These reef sites are dotted along the Ribbon Reefs not far from the Continental Shelf of Australia drop off.

The migration of the Minkes through the Ribbon Reefs occurs for a very limited time during the months of June, July & August, our northern tropical winter months.  So ensure book your berth early on a Minke Whale Liveaboard as cabins are limited and mark these months on your dive calendar!

Read more on when you can see Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef.

Although there are interactions with divers, the most prevalent interactions are with snorkellers. So, don’t be too concerned if you are not a certified diver and want to participate in one of the exclusive expeditions available.

There are a number of dive and snorkel tour boats in Port Douglas that hold the licence to swim with Minke Whales but this only occurs if they come across them on the way to the Great Barrier Reef and the whales approach the boat. It does not occur very often as the whales are normally on their way up to Ribbon Reef number 10 and just passing by. However if you are lucky enought the boat cuts it's engines and a long rope is extended out into the water and 10 snorkellers are permitted in the water for 10 minute rotations. These boats are on their way to the outer reef so they do not get to stay long so it is not possible for all to have these Minke Whale interactions. The best thing to do is book a dedicated liveaboard Minke Whale expedition which is a really excting way to not only swim with Minke Whales but also see other amazing marine life up at the Cod Hole.   

Duration of Whale Expeditions

There are only a handful of marine tour operators that run swim with Minke Whale Expeditions. Between them you will find options ranging from 3 nights up to 7 nights with all expeditions departing out of Cairns.

There are a couple that include a cruise out and fly back option which may help to fit an expedition in to your itinerary.

There is an option to Swim with Minke Whales in a Day Trip from Port Douglas - suitable for snorkellers and scuba divers, and offers the opportunity to enter the water and swim with the Minke Whales if the whales are encountered during the day.

Book one of our limited Swim With Minke Whale Expeditions now to ensure you experience this amazing marine animal experience: 

See all the swim with Minke Whales trips  

Talk to us today about swimming with Dwarf Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef, call 1300 231 118.

10 Interesting Dwarf Minke Whale Facts


  • ​Dwarf Minke whales are a type of Rorqual whale and are the smallest of the Baleen Whales.
  • Dwarf Minke Whales grow up to between 8 to 9 metres long
  • Females are bigger than the males
  • Dwarf Minke Whales are no different to Minke Whales other than size. Usually up to 8 metres long.
  • Dwarf Minke Whales have two blow holes
  • Dwarf Minke females reproduce every second year. The pregnancy lasts 10 to 11 months.
  • Each pregnancy produces one calf.
  • A newborn Dwarf Minke Whales calf is approximately 2.5 metres long and weighs 450 kg [1000 lb] at birth.
  • Dwarf Minke Whales are less likely to be seen breaching and doing Tail [Fluke] Slaps compared to Humpbacks
  • Dwarf Minke whales can survive up to 50 years in the wild.

Read more about swimming with whales and whale watching on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Read more about the Great Eight - The Great Barrier Reef's living icons.



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