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Great Barrier Reef Whales

Whales Of the Great Barrier reef

During the months of May to August, whales visit The Great Barrier Reef. These spectacular creatures migrate to our tropical waters to mate and give birth to their young. The commonly sighted whale species are the Dwarf Minke Whale and the Humpback Whale.

Curious Dwarf Minke Whales are known to swim close to inspect divers when encountered. Humpback Whales are more timid, performing spectacular breaching shows in the distance.

Swim with the Minkes

Pro Dive Cairns has one of the few permits issued by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to allow our guests to swim with dwarf minke whales if encountered. Conducted under a strict code of practice for a safe encounter, it’s actually the naturally inquisitive minkes that decide how close they interact and swim with us. While encounters are never guaranteed, you just might get lucky during one of Pro Dive Cairns 3 Day / 2 Night liveaboard trips.

Dwarf Minke Whales

Dwarf Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales. Baleen whales are filter feeders that filter their food through baleen plates that hang from both sides of their mouth, like bristles on a brush, and are used as a filter to trap their food. 

Dwarf Minke whales feed in the sub-Antarctic waters during December to March. They have never been seen feeding on The Great Barrier Reef. With their smaller size, they cannot carry vast energy reserves, so it is thought they feed opportunistically in open ocean while visiting the tropics. Reaching up to 8 meters in length they can swim at speeds of up to 12 knots.

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales undertake regular migrations between sub-Antarctic waters where they feed and tropical waters of The Great Barrier Reef where calves are born and nursed. During their stay in tropical waters, they feed little and subsist on energy reserves.

Female humpback whales are larger than the males and can reach lengths of 15 meters and weigh over 40 tonnes. Humpbacks have the largest pectoral fins of all whales, up to one-third the length of their bodies. Only the males sing and probably only during the mating season. Breaching - leaping out of the water - as well as tail and fin slapping may also be forms of communication.