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Dwarf Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef

Updated Tue 21 Mar 2023

Close up aerial of minke and its calf

Wanna swim with a minke whale on the Great Barrier Reef? Who doesn’t? Cairns is the best jumping-off point for all things reefy, so take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by booking with Cairns Tours today. Go on, make the most of your Tropical Far North Queensland adventure! You'll have a whale of a time.

What is a Minke Whale?

Up close and personal with a minke

The minke whale gets its name from a Norwegian seafarer named Meincke, who mistook this beautiful baleen for its cousin, the blue whale. By the way, if you want to pronounce it right, it's mink-ee. These whales usually have a 50-year lifespan. According to worldwide estimates, the minke whale population is 800,000 — the highest number for the baleen species!

Minke whales are considered to be the smallest among the ‘great whales’, growing up to 35 feet in length and weighing up to 9,070 kilos. The dwarf minke whale weighs in at a little less at 6,350 kilos and only grows up to 26 feet long. Fun fact: the female minke whale grows up to two feet larger than the male — more power to ya, girlies! Even though these whales are the smallest of the great whales, they’re still mind-blowingly massive when you see them in the flesh and swimming alongside them on the Great Barrier Reef is worthy of anyone's bucket list.

Minke Whale Reef Tours in Cairns

Aerial of minke and calf swimming near catamaran

The minke whales are one of the biggest and most beautiful attractions that bring tourists to Cairns. Your best bet for rubbing shoulders with a minke on the Great Barrier Reef is in the months of May to July, during their annual migration from Antarctica to the Ribbon Reefs. You’ll usually find the minkes between Lizard Island and Port Douglas, in the vicinity of the Ribbon Reefs. However, they can also be spotted in the Outer Reef areas. In fact, Cairns is one of the few places in the world where you’re guaranteed to see minkes in the wild as they need to migrate here for better breeding and calving grounds during the winter. 

And each year as the Great Barrier Reef becomes a safe haven for the minkes and their calves, flocks of tourists also migrate to Cairns to follow in their footsteps (fin-steps?). So, be sure to get in quick and schedule ahead if swimming with minkes in Queensland’s eternal summer is at the top of your hit list because this is one of the hottest and most sought-after activities in Cairns!

Minke whales have a curious nature and tend to seek out and maintain prolonged contact with boats. So what better way to get up close and personal than on a three-day cruise to the Ribbon Reefs during migration?! Snorkel and scuba alongside these friendly and inquisitive giants as they show off for you. It's safe to say that the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience wouldn’t be complete without the experience of seeing and swimming with the minke whales. 

Experience the best of what the Great Barrier Reef has to offer and secure the most supreme and intimate encounter with the minkes today! Consult our 24hr travel experts to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

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