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The Tour Specialists Tour Blog

Sep 10

Where to Swim With Whales on The Great Barrier Reef

Posted on September 10, 2018 by

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Working at The Tour Specialists in Cairns allows me to experience some of the local tours and attractions in the region, and I have always dreamed of swimming with a whale.

So on my day off I thought I would take the opportunity and go on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas with a boat called Silversonic of which has a swim with whales permit and see if I could live out my dream.

There are only three Great Barrier Reef tour boats in Port Douglas that actually have the permits for swimming with whales and the other two are Poseidon which is also part of the Quicksilver Group just like Silversonic, and Calypso snorkel & dive.

Swim With Whale Permits – Day Trips

Port Douglas is the only place in the world where humans are permitted to swim with these inquisitive whales so we feel so very privilidged to have this world first opportunity to interact with these wonderful mammals in our back yard.

These swim with whales permits allow 10 guests to be in the water at a time whilst holding onto a rope as the Dwarf Minke whales swim around them.

The guests are rotated every 10 minutes to ensure everyone on the boat who is keen to swim with the whales actually gets to have a chance.

The 200 or so Dwarf Minke Whales that migrate to the Agincourt Ribbon Reef area were first discovered in the mid-eighties and they are the only known predictable aggregation in the world!

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland – Swimming with Dwarf Minke Whale

These whales grow to a length of about eight metres and can swim at top speed of 20 knots or 30km per hour which is pretty fast for a whale don’t you think?

They are cheeky and very inquisitive and love the interaction they get with the human beings bobbing around in the water. They come up within arm’s length of you and look at you eye to eye as though trying to communicate or read your mind.

These whales don’t seem to do the giant breaches out of the water like our friends the Humpback Whales do down on our tours in Cairns thankfully as being in the water with them could be quite dangerous.

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland – Humpback Whale

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland – Humpback Whale

The Dwarf Minke Whales show up year after year during the months of July and August

My Swim With Whales Dream Came True

The day started early by getting picked up by coach at 6:30am from Cairns to take the beautiful 1 hour and 10 minutes bus drive along the Great Barrier Reef Drive to Port Douglas.

It was a beautiful morning making the hour and a half scenic coastal drive breathtaking. The bus driver had been working in the industry for over 30 years and was very knowledgeable about the local area and very entertaining cracking jokes and keeping the whole bus laughing.

Photo Courtesy of Jenni Tofia

We checked in at the Quicksilver office at the Crystalbrook Super Yacht Marina and then we boarded the beautiful Silversonic where we were greeted by the friendly crew on board.

Not only is this Great Barrier Reef tour a great choice for swimming with whales but it is also a great choice for people that suffer from sea sickness as it is fitted with stabilisers which help her to glide on the water’s surface in all weather conditions thus reducing the potential of seasickness in the guests.

Photo Courtesy of Jenni Tofia

If you had not had time to grab a quick breakfast there is tea and coffee available and really yummy cheese focaccia sandwiches.

What Happens When You Swim with a Whale? 

We had an hour and a half trip out to the remarkably beautiful Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, where it is known to have the best underwater visibility due to the lack of commercial and industrial industry runoff along the northern coastline of Australia.

As my friend and I are not certified divers, we attended a safety and basic training session for introductory scuba diving. The team member who conducted the session was professional and helped everyone to feel comfortable and keen to jump in the azure waters below.

Silversonic is only one of a few boats in Port Douglas that actually takes its day guests to snorkel and scuba dive 3 different reef sites in one day to ensure they see the best of the best of the Great Barrier Reef.

We anchored at the first coral reef site and it was time for to suit up in our scuba gear to take part in our first dive for the day.

As we were intro diving, there was 4 of us to one scuba diving instructor. We all slid into the water one by one and started to slowly descend.

Once just under the water, one by one we showed our dive instructor that we could do all the basic skills, of communication under water and then we were off.

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland – Swimming with Dwarf Minke Whale

The water was clear and the visibility was excellent. The coral was so bright and the water temperature was perfect, I was feeling blessed!

After about an hour or more the boat took off to the next coral reef site, which was even more beautiful than the first.

I was very lucky as they had a spare spot so I could take another introductory scuba dive. After coming up from my second dive it was soon lunch time and I was famished

A nice buffet lunch with loads of food options was provided and once our grazing was over the crew packed up and we took off to the third and last coral reef dive and snorkel site for the day.

We had not seen any whales as yet so I was a little disappointed to say the least, but very thankful for the brilliant day I had thus far.

We anchored at the third site, and it was the third and final dive for the day.

Once I surfaced from the dive I was told by a team, member that Dwarf Minke whales had been seen swimming not far from the boat.

I quickly peeled off my diving gear and leaped into the water with my snorkel gear to go and see if I could find these whales and live out my dream.

I Got To Swim with Dwarf Minke Whales!

Snorkeling not far from the boat it happened! One of the most amazing and memorable experiences that will never be forgotten.

There they were, Dwarf Minke whales, I simply couldn’t believe it! I am not a person that cries easily, though I started to weep like a baby with utter joy.

They were beautiful, and I had the incredible opportunity that they choose to swim with me, I was the selected one!

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland – Swimming with Dwarf Minke Whale

Not only one but two! In awe of what I was seeing I forgot I was wearing a snorkel and put my head right under the water watching where they were going. I probably swallowed a litre of salty water but it was worth it!

I got out of the water totally speechless. I had no words to express the overwhelming joy I was feeling swimming with something so beautiful and only an arm’s length away.

Taking off my googles and wiping the tears from my eyes, I realise that this was my once in a lifetime dream come true.

This is a memory that I’ll last for a life time! This experience has shown me so how important it is to care for our reef and the conservation programs for whales!

Photo Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland – Swimming with Dwarf Minke Whale

On the way back to shore we discussed our amazing experience over a cold beer and cheese and crackers.

The hour coach ride back to Cairns went quickly. We arrived back at approx. 18:30 which is a little later than usual. It was in incredible day and would highly recommended this Great Barrier Reef tour all year round for both divers and snorkelers.

Should you wish to have more than a one day swim with whales encounter you can book two dedicated Dwarf Minke Whale trips from Cairns on a 5 day – 4 night trip or a 3/4/7 night dive trip.

You need to pre-book these dive trips in advance because as the word gets out about these whale interactions more and more people are flocking to the Great Barrier Reef from the world over.

Author: Claire Redshaw – Tour Consultant with The Tour Specialists

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