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How to See Whales in Cairns

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Tom Linkins
Updated Tue 04 Apr 2023

Dwarf minke whales from above

Every year from the months of May to August, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the annual arrival of over 10,000 whales. The main big beauties making their way up to Cairns are the dwarf minke whales and humpback whales, although false killer whales, killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, sperm whales and beaked whales are known to drop by too! Obviously, each and every specimen is a wonder to behold in the wild. 

Dwarf minkes are a baleen species, considered to be the smallest of the 'great whales'. Though small in whale terms is still 35 feet long and up to 9,070 kilos. To put that into perspective, on the other end of the spectrum the humpback whale grows up to almost double that at 60 feet and up to 30,000 kilos! It's really something you have to see with your own eyes to comprehend.

The giants of the ocean depart the icy waters of Antarctica each winter for the warm and protected waters of the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef also provides a safe haven for mating and raising calves. 

Where to see whales in Cairns

Whales tailing catamaran

Though they can occasionally be glimpsed frolicking along the horizon from the shore, the best way to see the whales up close is on a liveaboard tour to the Outer Reef. Your best bet is towards Agincourt and the Ribbon Reefs, which are vibrant attractions in their own right with endless underwater treasures to explore while diving or snorkelling. The minke, especially, has an inquisitive nature and is known for playfully gliding alongside visiting boats and maintaining prolonged contact.

If seeing whales in their natural habitat is on your bucket list, book in for a three-day, three-night liveaboard spectacular with ProDive or get flown to the Reef and see the whales from above with Mike Ball’s three-day tour. But get in quick! You’re not the only one who wants a front row seat to the show, and tours during whale season sell out fast. And if you really take your whale watching seriously, treat yourself to Spirit of Freedom’s weeklong liveaboard to the Ribbons and world-famous Cod Hole. You’d see more whales in that week than most people would in their entire lifetimes!

Get in quick and book your once-in-a-lifetime encounter with whales on the Great Barrier Reef. And chat with our sensational travel staff for all of the tips and tricks you could possibly need to see these beautiful giants in the wild.

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