Minke Whale season

When do they come and where do they go?

Dwarf Minke whales travel through the Great Barrier Reef each winter, with most sightings occurring during June and July. The Great Barrier Reef is the only location where snorkel and dive tours with Minke whales are available, and there are only a handful of operators licenced to operate them. The Great Barrier Reef is the only place where the annual arrival of dwarf Minke whales can be predicted.

Generally, the Minkes are more commonly seen along the Ribbon Reefs between Port Douglas and Lizard Island, although it is possible to see in Outer Reef locations. Each year these Humpback and Dwarf Minke Whales leave the frozen climes of the southern oceans and are in transit 8,000 km each year to get all the way from the Antarctica to the warmer waters of tropical Cairns, Australia to either find a mate or to give birth to their calves in the saftety of the waters of the Great Barrier Reef

Humpback whales also migrate during this time and it’s these whales are more common in the Outer Reef areas.

How can I see them?

The best chance of seeing them is to go on an overnight trip, as these trips providing the unique swim with dwarf Minke whale experiences. These live aboard Reef trips depart from Cairns (liveaboard trips) with set departure dates in June, July and August. Most sightings occur at Ribbon Reef # 10, where some of the best dive sites are.

Dwarf Minkes whales grow up to eight metres in length, weigh several tonnes and are very inquisitive. An average interaction consists of 2- 3 whales for approximately 90 minutes.

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.

Overnight trips

For overnight trips, the 2 main operators that visit the Ribbon Reef areas are Mike Ball and Spirit of Freedom. These boats have Monday and Thursday departures. Both offer 3, 4 or 7-day trips. These trips are more suited to Advanced divers but experienced Open Water divers and snorkelers can join. Both Mike Ball and Spirit of Freedom do offer dedicated Minke safaris where they track and follow the Minke whales to ensure the maximum encounter time, Contact us for detail and scheduling.

Deep Sea Divers Den is running a limited 2-month season of Dwarf Minke Whales trips, in June and July 2018. During this period, their Cairns liveaboard dive boat Ocean Quest (which usually visits the Outer Great Barrier Reef areas), will provide weekly trips to the Ribbon Reefs in search of the Dwarf Minke Whales departing Fridays and returning Tuesdays. The Ocean Quest trip is a mix of southern Ribbon Reef sites and Outer Reef and does not go u as far as the Mike Ball and Spirit of Freedom trips that go as north as Lizard Island and the Cod Hole.

Note: The overnight trips to swim with the Mikes are extremely popular and book out many months j advance. To ensure a place please enquire with s early to check availability and remember we discount all the prices shown.

Day trips

It is possible to encounter whales on the day trip vessels and Minkes, but these are rare. You are likely to see Humpbacks breaching in the distance, but underwater encounters are less common. Having said that Aqua Quest and Poseidon in Port Douglas also visit the southern Ribbon Reef areas so do occasionally see the Minkes whilst snorkelling or diving.