Every year during the colder season in Australia, thousands of humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to the warmer waters of Queensland. There are many opportunities to spot them along the east coast of Australia. Sunreef at Mooloolaba (who organise all year-round trips to dive the HMAS Brisbane) offers the closest and most exciting encounter opportunity with these giant acrobats of the sea: if you’re lucky, you can swim with humpback whales in Australia!
I was invited to try the exciting experience to swim with whales^.
Because of the changing wind forecast, we had a roller coaster of yes and no, not being sure if the trip would go ahead until the day before. We’re used to that: you cannot be a control freak tight planner AND a nature lover.
We joined the 7 am cosy boat with the Sunreef guides, Sam and Ben. There was plenty of space and snacks for the small group of 20 passengers. It was a very different setting compared to the other more crowded boats that would go out for whale watching. With such a limited number on board, we were able to see the whales no matter where they would pop up. We also loved being able to go to the top with the Captain, a fellow from the Australia Zoo.
The whales are fascinating animals, and the Sunreef staff was happy to answer our questions and give interesting information and explanations about them.
It didn’t take long to spot the first whales. Unfortunately, they were clearly in a migration mode, cruising way too quickly to leave us a chance to see them underwater. As they showed no interest in us, we looked for another pod.
We then spotted a mother and its calf. There are strict regulations around whale watching and even tougher around swimming with them. We didn’t insist as they slightly changed their curse when we tried to approach.
Our captain tried to find more curious ones for a while. We were entertained by dolphins chasing our boat and entirely jumping out of the water less than one meter from the vessel. Even if they weren’t part of our mission this morning, it’s always a pleasure to see beautiful wild dolphins giving a show.
We got an adrenaline shot when we were told to get ready as a pod was nearby. The first part of the group went on the platform at the back of the boat, ready to jump in at any time. We saw some great acrobatics, but the swim didn’t happen this time. The whales didn’t seem to want to come close enough. Our guide had just received a call from the second Sunreef boat: they had been swimming with whales for half an hour, and we were going to try to steal their whales.
The excitement was rising. It may happen this time. It took us a little while to reach the second boat. All the satisfied swimmers were back on board so we hoped it would be our time. We could see the whales really close to our boat. We had never been more ready to jump in. When Sam yelled “Go”, no one hesitated. We all jumped in and quickly followed our guide, Ben.
It gives butterflies in the stomach to think we were swimming in the same area than these giant creatures – although we could not see them. Unfortunately, the whale didn’t stay. And the crew had to call it for the day as it was time to head back to the port after four hours out there. We couldn’t help feeling unlucky and a bit jealous of the second boat. But that’s the rules of the game when you’re dealing with wild animals. Maybe next time…!
Because it’s unexpected and uncontrollable, it’s magic when it actually happens. Have a look at this video Sunreef posted:
Would you like to swim with humpback whales in Australia? Leave a comment below!
Where is Mooloolaba?
^Although I was invited by Sunreef the first time I went on a trip to swim with humpback whales, all opinions are my own and reflect the adventure I lived.