Every diver has a wish list of marine life they want to see, be it sea turtles, sharks, orcas, whales, dolphins or the smallest of critters. There are a number of great dive destinations for whale encounters, but few people are aware of dwarf minke whales and the unique opportunity to swim with them at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Dwarf mink whales are only found in the southern hemisphere and migrate to the Coral Sea each winter to breed and calve. Their migration route was discovered in the 1980s and the Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where divers and snorkelers can jump in the water with the whales.
These whales can grow up to 8 metres in length, weigh up to 6 tonnes, and live for up to 60 years. Each whale has a distinctive colour pattern, making it easy to identify individual whales, and they are one of the fastest whales; reaching speeds of over 30 km per hour.
The M/V Spoilsport liveaboard was custom built to explore the Coral Sea and offers minke whale safaris during June and July each year. This liveaboard also hosts special Minke Whale Coral Sea expeditions with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions. Guests on these safaris can participate in minke whale behavioural monitoring and research, enjoy lectures about the reefs and whales, and spend plenty of time swimming with the whales.
The minke whale expeditions have had a 98% success rate of finding minke whales since they began in 1996 and the largest pod they have seen consisted of 28 whales. Their longest encounter with the whales lasted a whopping 10 hours!
Divers can enjoy scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef during these minke whale safaris and experience some of the 1500 species of fish, 400 coral species, and numerous sharks found there. Iconic dive sites, such as those at Osprey Reef, Ribbons Reef and Cod Hole, are diver favourites just waiting to be explored.
A Cod Hole scuba diving highlight is swimming with the resident family of ‘small diver’ sized potato cod, whilst Osprey Reef is the place to go for unspoilt wilderness diving with plenty of sharks. This remote area can only be reached during Osprey reef liveaboard diving.
The dwarf minke whale trips are very popular, so it’s best to book early to join the adventure. Swimming with the whales is suitable for snorkelers and there are dive options for novice and advanced divers.