Swimming with humpback whales

Swim with the humpback and minke whales in Queensland and Western Australia from June to October. Swimming with humpback whales
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Swimming with whales

Swim with the humpback and minke whales in Queensland and Western Australia from June to October.

Australia has always been one of the best places in the world to watch migrating whales. Now, not only can you watch these majestic creatures, you can get in the water and swim with them. Swimming with the whales was previously only reserved for visitors to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland but with numerous operators in Western Australia now running swim tours, this incredible experience has just become more accessible.

Swimming with humpback whales in Western Australia Video: @bluemediaexmouth/via Instagram

Swimming with Minke Whales

These captivating creatures travel through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the coast of Queensland each winter. They’re known to be very inquisitive you can snorkel or dive alongside them with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, who run minke whale research tours off the coast of Tropical North Queensland.

Most sightings occur at one particular reef off the coast of Tropical North Queensland, which hosts the only known congregation of minke whales in the world. On a tour you’ll generally get up close to at least two or three whales over the course of around 90 minutes. The water visibility is excellent, so there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself eye to eye with these graceful giants of the deep, which grow up to eight metres in length and weigh several tonnes.

Swim with the minke whale tours run in the months of June and July which is when the minke whales are most often sighted. Although the season’s finished for 2016, you can book ahead for next year, or even 2018.

Key locations: Tropical North Queensland

Getting there: Tours depart from Cairns or Port Douglas, which are both excellent spots to base yourself for a Tropical North Queensland getaway. More info.

When to go: June to July

Key operators: 

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

Eye to Eye Marine Encounters (E2E)


Western Australia

As a new tourism product in Western Australia, the opportunity to swim with humpback whales now exists in Exmouth and Coral Bay on Australia’s Coral Coast.  

The Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is an existing hot spot for swimming with the whale sharks, and operators will be extending their seasons (March - July in Exmouth and March to June in Coral Bay) to accommodate for the humpback migration (July to October annually).

The tours will be full day tours and kept very small (maximum of ten people) and your interactions with the whales will be on the whales terms, keeping the experience safe. If the humpbacks behaviour and the weather allows, you'll be able to get in the water with them.  

Key locations: Coral Bay and Exmouth 

Getting there: You can fly from Perth to Learmonth Airport on one of Qantas' daily flights. Bus charters will then take you to Exmouth (more info) and Coral Bay (more info). 

When to go: July to October

Key operators: 

Coral Bay Ecotours - Coral Bay 

Exmouth Diving Centre - Exmouth 

Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours - Exmouth 

Ningaloo Blue Dive - Exmouth 

Ningaloo Discovery  - Exmouth 

Ningaloo Reef Dive - Coral Bay 

Ocean Eco Adventures - Exmouth 

Sal Salis - Exmouth 

Three Islands Whale Shark Dive - Exmouth


Sunreef Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast are in their third season of whale swims and are the pioneers of swimming with humpback whales in Australia. They offer four hour tours of up to 20 people, and once a whale is sighted, if the conditions are determined safe, swimmers will be allowed into the water. The whale swimming operations work out of Mooloolaba in the heart of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Water temperatures range from 17 to 23 degrees celsius (62 to 73 degrees fahrenheit) and visibility is regularly up to 30 metres (98 feet).

Hervey Bay joined the ranks for the 2015 season, with local operators offering swim tours. The calm waters on the lee side of the island provide protection from the elements, making it a great location for this experience. Like all tours, swims are dependent upon conditions, visibility and the temperament of the whales on the day (you're looking for inquisitive humpbacks without much tail or fin slapping action). 

Key locations: Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay

Getting there: To get to the Sunshine Coast, you can either fly into Sunshine Coast airport in Marcoola or into Brisbane airport (more info). For Hervey Bay, daily flights operate from Brisbane to Fraser Coast (more info).  

When to go: July to October

Key operators: 

Sunreef Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast

Quick Cat 2 - Hervey Bay Whale Watch, Hervey Bay

Blue Dolphin Marine Tours, Hervey Bay


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