As the humpback whales in the Antarctic are feeding and increasing their blubber stores ready for their annual migration up the Australian east coast, the Sunreef Mooloolaba crew are also gearing up for another Swim with Whales season on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast.
After launching Australia’s 1st Swimming with Humpback Whale encounters in 2014, Sunreef are keen to help more people experience an encounter with these magnificent mammals from a new perspective.
Sunreef Whale Encounter Supervisor Dan Hart said more than 2000 people from all over the world experienced their Swim with Whales tours in 2014.
“This year we are expecting even greater demand, with lots of people already booking for the immersive experience.
“In addition to our three-hour experiences, this year we are also launching new full-day tours in collaboration with Australia Zoo, aboard their custom-built conservation and research vessel, Croc One.
“Like our three-hour tours, there will be a maximum of twenty people per tour. The full day tours will allow more time for whale interactions and include a lovely lunch as well.”
This year more than 22,000 humpbacks are expected to make the migration north from Antarctica starting in about March, arriving in Queensland by July and returning south from September to November. After eating up to four ton of krill and small fish a day each in the Antarctic over summer, the Humpbacks migrate to the warmer northern waters which provide perfect temperatures to give birth to their calves in the sheltered waters of Queensland’s coastline.
“Its so exciting to know, as we work to prepare for their arrival and talk with whale researchers about the studies they will conduct this year, that the whales are preparing too, feeding and fattening themselves up ready for their travels.
“I just can’t wait to get in the water with them again. It’s such a unique experience that every time it’s just like my first all over again. It’s almost indescribable but it gives you a rare insight into their world – it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
“I also love seeing and hearing everyone’s reactions when we have a great encounter. We see the whales from the surface and then you will hear the swimmers squealing excitedly through their snorkels as the whale swims past – its just takes your breath away every time!”
Dan said the swimming with whales experience was operated under a strict Code of Conduct to protect both the whales and the participants.
Participants who take part in a Swim with Humpback Whales experience can expect a three-hour or day-long round trip with a maximum of 20 participants on each trip.
Dan said Sunreef provide a full briefing on what to expect and safety procedures as well as providing all required equipment.
Once a whale is sighted, the boat will be put into neutral 100m or more away from the whale, and if the conditions are determined safe by our trained crew, the boat will be turned off and swimmers will be allowed into the water holding on to the floating line attached to the boat.
“Then it’s all up to the whale – it is a natural experience and it is 100% on the whale’s own terms,” Dan said.
“In our experience, the whales seem as intrigued by us as we are of by them and often come close to swimmers, gliding effortlessly around us, with such a gentleness that its like they recognise our fragility in comparison and know we are there out of wonder and respect,” Dan said.
It takes about 15 minutes from the Sunreef dock to get out to the beautiful waters off Mooloolaba which are at their best during the winter months when the whales migrate. Water temperatures during this time range from 17 to 23 degrees C and visibility is regularly up to 30 metres.
The 2015 Sunreef Swim with Whales season will start on July 4th and run through until the end of October.
Sunreef Mooloolaba, based in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is the longest established dive centre on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland, Australia) with roots starting back in 1976.
Sunreef is a 5 Star PADI Training Centre and offers accredited dive courses for all levels of divers as well as local reef dives, snorkelling trips and diving on the ex-HMAS Brisbane. Sunreef also plans and guides international dive trips and travel as well as dive equipment sales and servicing.
The whale swimming and watching operations work out of Mooloolaba in the heart of Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast.