Swimming with dwarf minke whales
Note: Vessels conducting swims with dwarf minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef must have a special endorsement from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Please see our management page for more information on regulations associated with swimming with whales.
Swimming with dwarf minke whales is an extraordinary wildlife tourism experience. When visiting the Great Barrier Reef each austral winter, dwarf minke whales behave unlike most other whales and show exceptional interest in humans. These highly inquisitive whales often approach boats, divers and snorkelers very closely, and occasionally stay in close proximity and interact for many hours.
By following the Code of Practice and remaining relatively calm and still in the water, you are more likely to have a better interaction. Research and observations over the last two decades have also shown that the whales tend to approach more closely the longer the encounter lasts. Not all sightings of whales however result in an in-water interaction. It is important to remember that dwarf minke whales are wild animals and our interactions with them must be entirely on their terms.
The Minke Whale Project has conducted several studies of swim-with-whales participants’ experiences over the years (e.g. Birtles et al., 2001; Valentine et al., 2004; Curnock, 2011). Below are a few example responses provided by participants in a survey at the end of their trip:
- “It was amazing to see such a magnificent animal up close. They were so graceful and peaceful.”
- “The curiosity of the whales brought them very close to us on the line, so close I could make eye contact which was very long.”
- “Words cannot explain how wonderful this trip was! I was closer to these amazing creatures than I can imagine. The whales were magnificent.”
- “I have never been in such close contact with such a large animal. It was especially good because it was due to the curiosity of the whales.”