The Tour Specialists Blog


When can you see Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef?

admin on August 12th, 2023

If you're a nature enthusiast and have a passion for all sorts of marine life, encountering the graceful minke whales is an experience like no other when on a liveaboard dive and snorkel tour in Cairns. These magnificent creatures, known for their curious nature and acrobatic displays, can provide an awe-inspiring adventure for anyone willing to embark on a liveaboard dive trip to see them up close.

In this blog, we'll explore when and where you can witness these majestic mammals in their natural habitat, as well as the thrilling opportunity to swim alongside a minke whale on specialized tours, some of which even have scientists onboard.

When and Where to Spot Dwarf Minke Whales

Dwarf minke whales are very rare with not a great deal known about these mammals, and the Great Barrier Reef is the only known area of congregation for these species. These dwarf minke whales were only discovered in the mid-eighties by a local scuba diver who at first thought they were Orcas but after working with a team at the Queensland Museum it was determined to be a brand-new species not seen or recorded before now. The months of June & July offer a chance to witness their beauty in a wonderfully diverse marine environment that they feel safe, and visitors also feel safe with them even though they weigh in at six tonnes of blubber and are around eight meters in length, think double decker bus length.

Like Manta Ray each dwarf minke whale is identified by its underbelly markings just like fingerprints are for humans and these mammals can live to approximately 50-60 years old.

To date there are only around 200 – 250 minke whales that have been counted to date so if you have the chance to swim with these minke whales this will be an experience that you will never forget in a lifetime.

Even today, scientists have no idea where they come from or where they go to once they have been on the Great Barrier Reef. They think they are in the Antarctic, but this has not yet been proven. 

Swim with Minke Whale Tours

For those who crave a truly immersive experience, swimming alongside minke whales is an extraordinary opportunity. Specialized snorkel tours offer this thrilling adventure, taking you to the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, where you'll have the chance to observe and interact with these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

Departure Months

The only time to embark on a swim with minke whale tour is from June to July. During this period, the waters of the Great Barrier Reef become a haven for these inquisitive creatures. The weather conditions are generally favourable, ensuring maximum visibility and increased chances of encountering these gentle giants.

What to Expect on Liveaboard Minke Whale Trips

Liveaboard tours provide an unforgettable adventure, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the marine environment and observe the incredible biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef. These trips typically last 3 nights or more giving you ample time to explore the area and have remarkable encounters with minke whales and to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets over the Great Barrier Reef.

During your liveaboard excursion, you'll have the opportunity to participate in guided snorkelling or scuba diving sessions, led by experienced instructors who prioritize the safety and well-being of both participants and the marine life. Under the guidance of marine biologists and naturalists, you'll learn about the behaviour and conservation efforts aimed at protecting these mesmerizing creatures.

Witnessing dwarf minke whales in their natural habitat is a truly awe-inspiring experience that stays with you long after the trip ends. By choosing a specialized tour with a licenced operator, you can embark on an adventure of a lifetime. From the months of June to July, you'll have the chance to swim alongside these magnificent creatures and gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the ocean. So, pack your bags, plan your visit during the optimal months, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey with the majestic minke whales.


Book in advance and ensure you only travel with a tour operator that has a licence to swim with minke whales as this is a highly regulated activity in Australia and only a very few tour operators carry this licence. Speak to the crew at The Tour Specialists and they will put you on the right boat charter for your marine encounter with a minke whale. 

Read more about swimming with Dwarf Minke Whales in Tropical North Queensland and discover further marine encounter experiences available on the Great Barrier Reef.


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