Everything you need to know about swimming with dwarf minke whales
Dwarf minke whales are mysterious, elusive creatures and not very much is known about them. Come with us as we deep dive into everything we’ve discovered about them so far, including how to encounter them and just why they’re so special in the first place.
If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with these magnificent marine mammals, then read on for everything you need to know about swimming with dwarf minke whales.
Who are dwarf minke whales?
Minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale in existence. Their scientific name Balaenoptera acutorostrataactually describes the family minke whales come from. The dwarf minke whale belongs to the family of whales that filter their food through long sieve-like plates called baleen. They can live up to 50 years, and in some cases for up to 60.
Their auditory system – like most other Mysticetes (their taxonomy) – is not well understood. Previous MRI studies show evidence that minke whales have fat deposits in their jaws that helps them receive sounds, like Odontocetes (whale with teeth).
An adult can weigh up to 6,000kg and grow to 8 metres – giving us new respect for mothers that gestate a calf up to 2 metres in length and for 10 months at a time!
Minke whales love the northern waters of the Coral Sea, visiting Tropical North Queensland for just a few weeks every year. June/July is the best time to spot them – after they disappear from Queensland waters, scientists aren’t exactly sure where they go.
Day tour… or longer?
Want to get up close and personal? Tours are one of the best ways to see dwarf minkes, and most depart from Cairns or Port Douglas. Choose from either a day trip or on a longer liveaboard experience that gives you the best chance of seeing and swimming with minke whales over a number of days.
Liveaboard experiences keep you in the thick of it and boast the best views to wake up to of all. Staying in Cairns after your liveaboard adventure? Use this handy accommodation guide to snag the best pad in all of Tropical North Queensland.
There are a few operators running the liveaboard experiences, from Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, Spirit of Freedom and Eye-to-Eye Marine Encounters to Divers Den. Single day trip operators include The Silver Series and Poseidon.
Swimming with them
It’s said to be a thoroughly invigorating, soul-touching experience to swim with minke whales. Their shy nature makes them hard to spot at first, but with a little patience and staying still, they grow accustomed to you and dare to swim closer each time they pass.
Looking at each other eye-to-eye is something that just stays with you – that mutual acknowledgement of another living creature transcends all the species and language barriers.
When you go out for a dive there’ll usually be spotters on top of the boat trying to get eyes on a whale. They’re quick creatures – sometimes by the time you focus your gaze they’re gone again, so be sure to have your wetsuit on and camera at the ready to jump in and capture their rare beauty.
Some important things to note: your encounter with these gorgeous creatures is controlled to minimise the impact on the animals – this includes not swimming after them. Minke whales are curious, so just float around and let them come and eyeball you.