Barrier Reef Australia Blog


Where can you swim with Dwarf Minke Whales?

admin on May 10th, 2023

Where can you swim with dwarf minke whales?

Swimming with dwarf minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef, is a unique and unforgettable experience that should be on every nature lover's bucket list.  In fact the only place in the world where you can swim with Dwarf Minke Whales is right here in Tropical North Queensland!

There are only a handful of certain boats in Cairns and Port Douglas that have this special swim with whale permits that can take guests out on day trips and overnight on the Great Barrier Reef. Far North Queensland is the only place in the world where you can swim with these baleen whales, making it a very rare and unique opportunity to interact with these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

These gentle giants can grow up to 8 meters in length and are known for their highly inquisitive nature and playful behaviour. Despite their size, very little is known about these enigmatic creatures, which adds to the allure of the swim with whale’s experience. Scientists at the James Cook University in Cairns are still studying the Dwarf minke whales to understand their migration patterns, communication, and breeding behaviours. One of the great things guests on these dive and snorkel tours get to do is identify and assist to gather data on these animals and provide their findings back to the researchers which is really neat and inclusive.

What is known, however, is that the dwarf minke whales are highly social and curious creatures. They are known to willingly approach boats and swimmers, even seeking out interaction and spending hours following the boats. Their curiosity towards humans makes them an excellent subject for study, as well as providing an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to be in the water with these gentle animals.

Swim with Whales – Liveaboard Tours & Charters

To make the most of this rare opportunity, you can choose from several options, including liveaboard boats and day tours from Cairns and Port Douglas in tropical north Queensland. Liveaboard boat experiences range in length from three to seven nights, giving you the flexibility to choose the duration that suits your needs. Each tour boat offers a unique experience, with different itineraries and activities.

Some boats focus solely on swimming with the whales, while others offer a variety of other activities, such as scuba diving iconic Great Barrier Reef sites such as the Cod Hole and the Blue Hole, diving or feeding sharks and exploring remote islands.

Here is a selection of liveaboard swim with dwarf minke whale expeditions on the Great Barrier Reef.

For those after a luxury experience - you can also charter this private boat which has one of the limited permits to swim with the whales! 
Enjoy a private, luxury dive & snorkelling charter PLUS experience the rare opportunity to swim with Minke Whales for an unforgettable encounter!  Based in Cairns this private charter boat operates Swim with Minke Whale charters during June - July with 5 or 6 night charters and optional return flights from Lizard Island for shorter charters.  

Swim with Whales from Port Douglas & Cairns – Day Tours

For those who prefer not to stay overnight on a liveaboard boat, a few of the day tour operators in Port Douglas offer the possible chance to see the dwarf minke whales up close and personal, as they make their way out to the reef. Just keep in mind these are not dedicated dwarf minke whale tours, they are dive and snorkel tour boats that have a swim with minke whale licence which can be used if they see whales when making their way out to the reef for their daily dive and snorkel tours, the whales must be the one’s keen on an interaction.

The captain will stop the boats and wait for the whales to come over and then they will put the rope out and put around 10 snorkellers into the water on 10 minute rotations.

Click here for a selection of day tours with swim with whale licences from Port Douglas. (optional transfers available from Cairns & Cairns Beaches)

Safety when swimming with dwarf minke whales

Swimming with dwarf minke whales is a strictly controlled activity to ensure the safety of both the whales and the swimmers. Only a limited number of swimmers are allowed in the water at any given time on a long rope, and strict guidelines are in place to ensure that the interaction is respectful and non-invasive. This allows visitors to experience the thrill of swimming with these gentle giants while minimizing any impact on their behaviour or environment.

The best time to swim with dwarf minke whales

The best time to swim with Dwarf Minke Whales is between June and July. During this time, the whales migrate to the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef to mate and give birth in the safe waters surrounding the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs. The water temperature is also ideal, with temperatures ranging from 22-25°C (71-77°F), making it comfortable for extended periods of time in the water.

Swimming with dwarf minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed. The inquisitive nature of these creatures, coupled with the mystery surrounding their behaviour, adds to the allure of the experience.

Departing from Cairns and Port Douglas, the Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where you can swim with these baleen whales, making it a rare opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. So, if you are planning a trip to Far North Queensland, make sure to add swimming with dwarf minke whales to your itinerary and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures up close.

If swimming with whales is not your thing check out further information about whale watching tours on the Great Barrier Reef.


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