Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Visit the Great Barrier Reef Between June & July to Swim with Minke Whales
First recognized by scientists less than 30 years ago, the dwarf minke whale is both elusive and super friendly.
There is so much we don’t know about these whales despite their proclivity to search out human company.
Scientists don’t understand why, but these whales are extremely curious and will often spend hours swimming around snorkelers and divers, giving quite a show! They are known to follow a boat around for hours, stopping for a look at each new dive site.
When to Swim with Minke Whales
Minke whales are the most common of the great whale species, found in abundance throughout the world’s oceans. They are mostly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
They are found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand between March and December, but the best time to see minke whales is in June and July.
Despite their wide reach, swimming with minke whales only happens in The Great Barrier Ribbon Reefs in Tropical North Queenland, Australia. The great thing about this is that minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef are very social and communicative. Expeditions out to the reef regularly report seeing multiple whales in one day!
These multi-day Liveaboard expeditions depart from Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. These expeditions visit unique reef sites each day, offering more opportunities to swim with these gentle creatures.
This is one of the only animal encounters in the world that is entirely on the animal’s own terms. When a pod is spotted, a rope is tossed into the water. Groups of up to 10 swimmers hold on to the rope and the whales can approach or leave as they like. The whales are very generous with their time and once a pod is spotted, its rare if someone on the boat misses out on the experience while waiting their turn.
Things to Know Before Swimming with Minke Whales
Being in the water with these majestic creatures is described as a life-changing experience. It’s common for people to emerge from the water crying, screaming or just plain speechless.
If you want to add this encounter to your Australia bucket list, here are a few things you should know!
1. Every Australian winter, the minke whales make their annual migration from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef from May to August. Plan your trip between June to mid-July for the best odds of seeing a pod. Peak season is in early July.
2. This special experience might take a bit of effort and luck! Only a handful of tour operators have permits to swim with minke whales and you’re never guaranteed an encounter. Increase your odds of swimming with the genial giants by taking a 3-7 night Liveaboard Excursion. In June and July, you’ll have a 98% chance of encountering the whales. It is recommend that you pre-book your excursion.
3. If you’re not keen on spending nights at sea, you can take a day-trip out of Port Douglas. These day-trips have an encounter rate of about 18%. This decreases your odds quite a bit, but if you do encounter them, you will feel as though you won the lottery! Either way it’s an amazing day out on the Great Barrier Reef. These day-trips often give discounts for multiple days out on the boat and they usually end up at different dive sites each day. So, you could stay a few nights in lovely Port Douglas and increase your odds by taking multiple trips out to the reef without feeling like you’re doing the same thing every day.
4. If you go in July, you might even have a chance to see and/or swim with Humpback whales too!
5. You can contribute directly to ongoing research including photo-identification, behavior research and conservation efforts from your minke whale encounter.
6. Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales. Like Humpback whales, they have no teeth, but a series of baleen plates that they use to trap and filter the food krill.
7. There is still much to be learned about these whales. For example, they have never been seen feeding on the Great Barrier Reef so it is assumed that they feed in Open Ocean while in the tropics, but no one really knows!
8. They are one of the fastest whales. They can travel at speeds greater than 20 knots or about 23 miles per hour.
9. Minke whales seem to prefer snorkelers to divers. They tend to get closer to and hang around longer when humans are not wearing large air tanks.
Want a chance to cross this amazing experience off your Bucket List? Visit Australia with the help of a Destination Specialist at About Australia. We can make your once in a lifetime trip Down Under fun and easy!
Posted on: April 4th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Forever a huge draw to Australia, seeing the Great Barrier Reef never fails to inspire a huge rush of emotions.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is on the bucket list for nature-lovers and travelers alike.
But what is seeing the reef really like?
Are the colors and marine life as vibrant as you see in the postcards?
Is the reef still quite a sight to see?
Our clients weigh in on their Great Barrier Reef experience – and some unexpected surprises.
“We loved the helicopter ride at the reef because it gave us a feel for how large the reef is.”
Photo by: Sheri Hardin
With a scenic helicopter ride over the reef, Sheri Hardin was able to take in the immense size of the reef from a different perspective.
When you’re snorkeling up close to intricate coral gardens and gazing at the colors around you, it’s easy to forget the enormous size of the reef.
Made up of over 900 islands stretching over 1,600 miles along the coast of Queensland, the reef is approximately the same area size as Japan – and visible from outer space!
This means no two spots of the reef are the same – the marine and reef life in the northern part of the reef is different to that in the south.
But the reef takes on an entirely different look when gazed at from above.
The tantalizing blue waters of the reef blend into almost luminescent shades of turquoise – truly breathtaking to behold.
“I did not know snuba was available but was happy it was. It’s like scuba diving but you pull your tank above you.”
Sheri Hardin snuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns
Fascinated with the reef by air, Sheri wanted to go beyond snorkeling to get as up close to the reef as possible.
From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles, she could easily see the reef without even dipping a toe in the water.
But Sheri felt a little courageous. Though scuba diving seemed daunting, she found the perfect balance with snuba.
With the help of marine biologists, tourism operators are always coming up with new, safe ways to see the reef.
One of these new ways rapidly gaining popularity is snuba, a perfect combination of snorkeling and scuba diving.
After strapping on her snorkeling gear, a snuba harness and light weight belt, Sheri was ready to go.
Breathing from a scuba mouthpiece through a long air line attached to a floating air tank, she explored the reef with ultimate freedom.
No need to come up for air, no heavy equipment weighing her down. No diving experience necessary and easier than snorkeling.
The best part was seeing those hidden sea creatures easily missed by snorkelers!
“The Barrier Reef was great…We were thrilled!”
Barbara McHuron on a helmet dive at the Great Barrier Reef
Although Barbara McHuron is terrified of the water, she was determined to see the reef in its full glory.
Glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles wouldn’t cut it.
After taking swimming lessons just for this trip to the reef, she was ready for a helmet dive.
Another fantastic way for non-swimmers to see the reef, helmet dives allow you to breath normally while walking among the fish and corals.
Once the crew secured the diving helmet on her, Barbara walked down the ramp steps to an underwater reef platform.
She was immediately greeted by curious fish as fascinated with her helmet as she was by them.
“Our favorite moment was when the crew did a fish feeding and the bigger fish came up to the barge.”
On her Great Barrier Reef excursion, Haley Olson and her husband were given stinger suits for protection.
Stinger season was approaching, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
This turned out to be a good call after all, as they caught glimpses of jellyfish floating by.
But with the impenetrable protection of their stinger suits and the abundance of marine life in the water below, they quickly forgot about these stingers.
With colorful tropical fish of different sizes and incredible coral formations, it’s easy to get lost in the underwater wonderland of the reef.
Even more amazing is when a gigantic blue fish swims up to you and refuses to leave until you pet him.
Who knew fish could be so social?
On the Great Eight list of the Great Barrier Reef, the curious Humphead or Maori Wrasse fish is known to swim right up to snorkelers and divers.
This large blue fish grows up to 6 feet in length and weighs up to 400 pounds – quite the friendly giant!
Excursions out to the reef often include a fish feeding. Among the hungry frequenters is a Maori wrasse, charming Haley with its friendliness and dazzling shades of blue and green.
“I immediately came back up from the water and cried!”
Photo Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Fabrice Jaine
After donning on her fins and snorkel mask, Gretchen Ibarra carefully lowered herself into the water from the reef pontoon. She couldn’t see any coral at first, as there was something blocking her view.
A giant, curious manta ray had made its way close to Gretchen for a quick ‘hello!’
Gazing at the manta ray for a few moments, she rushed back to the water’s surface, eyes filling with tears.
The crew immediately congratulated her – this was a moment many people only dream about.
Also slated as one of the Great Eight of the Great Barrier Reef, these majestic and harmless creatures are big bucket list items for snorkelers and divers. As shy creatures that keep mostly to themselves, manta rays remain a bit of a mystery.
With a wingspan of up to 22 feet, seeing these creatures up close is an incredible experience you just have to see to believe. It’s like seeing a small car just glide past you underwater!
You’ll find manta rays hanging out in the waters of Lady Elliot Island, Osprey Reef, Heron Island and Lady Musgrove Island. The best time to see them is during the Australian winter months in May and June.
“A lot of people say the Reef is dead, but that’s not true. The locals say it is on a slow recovery right now and is still quite the sight to see!”
Nicholas Culhane posing with a sea turtle.
Any fears Nicholas Culhane felt on his first diving trip were quelled by the extremely knowledgeable and outgoing crew onboard. His comfort was their utmost priority.
And as often happens – after his first dive, Nicholas couldn’t get enough.
But nothing could prepare him for the exhilarating rush when a sea turtle and 5-foot long reef shark joined him on a swim!
From parrotfish to clownfish to giant clams and reef sharks, the marine life he saw on the outer reef was plentiful and thriving.
More than 1,500 species of fish, over 300 species of molluscs, 30 species of whales and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles call this reef their home.
Despite recent coral bleaching events affecting coral systems around the globe, the reef remains one of the healthiest and most protected reefs in the world.
Standard excursions out to the reef are joined by marine biologists who provide a wealth of information regarding the health of the reef and marine life.
In fact, tourism operators play an important role in managing its recovery and helping visitors learn about the reef.
Ready to See the Great Barrier Reef?
Arguably Australia’s most precious natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef is a must for any traveler visiting from around the world.
No matter the kind of person you are – whether you’re terrified of the water or can’t get enough – there’s a way to see the reef perfect just for you.
Glorious and packing unexpected surprises, the unparalleled diversity and natural beauty of the reef awaits.
Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Add these to your SCUBA Diving Bucket List
From the Great Barrier Reef in the east to the majestic whale sharks in the west, this list of the best underwater experiences in Australia will have you itching to get down under for an amazing dive adventure. Lucky for you, there’s never been a better time book a trip to Australia.
Dive the Great Barrier Reef
There’s no way around it. If you’re a diver, the Great Barrier Reef needs to be on your bucket list. It’s the biggest reef system in the world with over 2,900 reefs and 900 islands stretching 1,429 miles. That’s massive! It’s filled with nonstop underwater action and is perfect for divers of all levels. It’s overflowing with all manner of aquatic life; 380 species of coral, over 2,000 species of fish, 4,000 species of mollusks, 500 species of seaweed and 6 of the 7 kinds of sea turtles.
Stand where the reef meets the rainforest
Ok, so it’s not an underwater experience, but it’s worth a mention! Australia is home to the only place in the world where Two World Heritage Sites meet. The Great Barrier Reef meets up with the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, a group of rainforests with the highest concentration of primitive flowers plant families in the world, at Cape Tribulation and the Daintree rainforest. This majestic site offers a glance into what the world was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (Along with really great diving close by!)
Dive Ribbon Reefs
Just outside of Cairns, in the northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll find the Ribbon Reefs. The ten reefs, simply named Ribbon Reef 1 through Ribbon Reef 10, stretch for more than 50 miles along the edge of the continental self and offer legendary diving for all levels of experience. There’s even really great snorkeling!
As you explore the Ribbon Reefs you are also likely to find everything from large Maori wrasse to leopard morays, playing clownfish to large aggregations of batfish, bommie to whitetip reef sharks, and uncountable species of anemonefish.
Dive in June or July and you’re almost guaranteed to swim with a Minke whale.
Some great dive sites include: Challenger Bay, Steve’s Bommie, Acropolis, Cod Hole, Lighthouse Bommie and Snake Pit.
Come Face to Face with a Giant Potato Cod
Found in “Cod Hole” (Ribbon Reef #10) these giant grouper are extremely friendly and accustom to being hand fed. Find them off the coast of Cairns, Australia or Lizard Island on the North End of the Great Barrier Reef.
Take a Live-aboard out to North Horn, Osprey Reef for an amazing shark frenzy experience. The North Horn of Osprey reef is a unique diving landscape with the reef starting 16 feet below the surface, sloping to 131 feet and then making a vertical drop to around 1,312 feet. It feels like an oasis of life in the middle of a desolate sea and deep sea creatures are known to stop by for a visit. It’s a place where 2 ocean currents converge and a place famous for it’s shark dives.
Silvertips, grey reefs, grey whalers, white tips and even hammerheads come to the site for an easy meal. When the dive operators drop the bucket, the intensity of the free-for-all reaches a fiver pitch. The sharks are accustomed to this feed and ignore the divers as they tear into their meal. You’ll get a nice adrenaline rush, without much actual danger.
Selfie with a Maori Wrasse (Humphead Wrasse)
This large personable fish can be found on reef slopes and lagoon reefs on The Great Barrier Reef. They are one of the few fish that eat the reef’s toxic arch enemies. With their large lips, comical eyes and friendly personalities they make great selfie buddies!
Swim with Sea Turtles
Swimming with sea turtles is a dream come true for many divers. The Great Barrier Reef is home to 6 of the 7 species of turtles in the world. One of the best places to swim with sea turtles (Green and Loggerhead) is from Heron Island. The reef surrounding Heron Island is also home to around 60% of the 1,500 species of fish and 72% of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef.
Visit November – March for turtle breeding season.
Dive the Great Barrier Reef and you are almost guaranteed to find him.
Swim with whale sharks, Ningaloo Reef
You don’t even have to be a diver for this one but an Australian aquatic wish list wouldn’t be complete without the majestic whale shark. Don’t worry, whale sharks don’t have teeth. For this amazing experience head to Ningaloo Reef on the Coral Coast in Western Australia between mid-March and the end of July. Not only will you swim with the whale sharks, but you’ll see an abundance of reef life such as manta rays, dolphins and turtles.
Spot a Dugong
The seawater cousin of the manatee, the Dugong or sea cow can be found on the Coral Coast of Australia. Shark Bay and Ningaloo marine parks supports about 10% of the world’s population.
Cage Dive with Great White Sharks
You won’t find Great Whites on the Great Barrier Reef so the adventurous types should head to Port Lincoln in South Australia to catch a charter and cage dive with the sharks. The pristine waters off Neptune Islands make it one of best places to see sharks in their natural habitat. The cages keep you from becoming dinner.
Scuba with a Leafy Sea Dragon
These interesting creatures can be found hiding in the kelp leaves and seaweed off the coast of southern and eastern Australia. Many divers travel to Australia only to find that the leafy sea creatures are tough to spot. Make sure to ask your destination specialist about the best places and times to see the elusive Leafy Sea Dragon.
Traveling to Australia for a dive trip is on nearly every diver’s Bucket List. Have you had the opportunity to experience it?
Luckily, there’s never been a better time to travel to Australia.
Posted on: November 13th, 2014 by veronicap No Comments
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Our Australian Dive Specialists will be attending the DEMA Show in Las Vegas next week (19-22 November, 2014).
DEMA is a trade-only event for qualified professionals, attracting more than 9,000 attendees and features over 500 leading manufacturers, destinations, wholesalers and service providers all dedicated to the diving, action watersports and travel industries.
We’ll be showcasing our Travel Services to Dive Groups & Shops who sell International Dive Trips to their customer-base. Our niche & specialty being travel to Australia and Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef. Land based or Live-aboard diving we can coordinate all arrangements including flights, transfers, accommodation, diving plus additional touring. For group travel we assist with marketing, handle all logistics, create travel documents plus make the planning of a trip a profitable exercise for your business.
DEMA Show 2014 Event Date: November 19-22, 2014 Location: Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Company: AboutAustralia.com Booth: 1545
Posted on: February 18th, 2012 by veronicap No Comments
Our in-house Dive Specialists from “About Australia” will be at The Tacoma Dive Show & Travel Expo this weekend (21-22 April, 2012). We’ll be flying the Aussie flag for Vacation Packages tailored specifically for scuba divers to Dive Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Although our travel packages will have a dive focus at the show, we can tailor any package to suit your needs. So stop by our booth and say G’day!
The Tacoma Dive Show & Travel Expo Event Date: April 21-22, 2012 Location: Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, Tacoma, Washington, USA Company: About Australia
DIVE SHOW SPECIAL: BUDDY DEAL, UP TO 50% OFF 2ND PERSON
7 Day Cod Hole & Coral Sea Tours (Monday departures) For every booking of 2 people, the 2nd person receives a 50% discount off the Liveaboard (boat only).
3 Day Cod Hole and 4 Day Coral Sea Tours For every booking of 2 people, the 2nd person receives a 25% discount off the Liveaboard (boat only). Liveaboard
Travel window:06 August – 03 September 2012 Deposit by31 May 12
Conditions: The discount is on the Spirit of Freedom Liveaboat boat trip fees only, (not applicable to gear hire, courses, nitrox fills or levies). The second person must travel on the same date, same tour, and same cabin type for the discount to apply. The offer is not valid with any other specials. Subject to Availability. Subject to Change Without Notice.