Whales in Port Douglas

whales

Whales in winter

You know it is winter in Port Douglas when the whales arrive. Of course our “winter” is very mild with daytime temperatures rarely getting below 23 degrees Celsius. The two major groups of whales that visit Port Douglas are Humpback Whales and Dwarf Minke whales.

Dwarf Minkes arrive in Port Douglas usually in the middle of June. The annual arrival is the only predictable aggregation of Dwarf Minkes in the world. Researchers from all over the world come to the Great Barrier Reef during the Minke season to study them.

Dwarf Minkes are identifiable by their colourations and markings. No two Dwarf Minkes have the same coloration and it is this feature that researchers employ to identify individual whales. Minkes grow to a length of 8m. They are baleen feeders meaning that they sift out microscopic marine creatures from the water.

They are very curious and will often approach snorkelers and boats.

There are only a couple of boat operators that offer opportunities to swim with dwarf Minkes. The Minkes are very friendly and will often come within metres of the snorkelers. The dwarf Minkes snorkeling tours are of 5 day duration.

Humpbacks visit the Great Barrier Reef at the same time as the Minkes. Humpbacks are much bigger though. They often perform spectacular leaps called “breaches”. Large numbers of humpbacks appear as they gather in Port Douglas to calve and breed.

Humpbacks can often be seen when you are out on a fishing or snorkeling charter- usually in breeding pairs. The boat operators will often cut the engines so as to allow them to approach the boat. As they are also very curious animals the humpback whales can come right up to the boat and check you out. These whales are easily identifiable by their long pectoral fins and bigger size of 12- 16 metres in length. If you are very lucky you may get to see the humpbacks engage in some interesting behaviour like spy hopping.

Carolynne Staines
Carolynne Staines

Carolynne has been a Port Douglas "local" since 1995 Her travels have taken her far and wide, from Southern Australia to Europe, from Port Douglas to Cape York, Lizard Island and many places in between. With a career in tourism spanning decades that has seen her manage hotel tour desks in five star resorts, as well as manage tour boats in Port Douglas; she enjoys writing about the best possible experiences of tours and activities around Port Douglas and of course her favorite destination...the Great Barrier Reef.