DWARF MINKE WHALES
Ribbon Reefs, Far North Queensland
Type of dive: Animal
Access: Boat (Live aboard)
Minimum qualification: Snorkelling or Open Water
Depth: 0-6 metres (0-20’)
Visibility: 15-30 metres (70-100’)
Water temperature: 25°C (77°F) – 29°C (83°F)
Best time to visit: June – July (Seasonal)
Snorkelling: Yes, majestic!
Dwarf minke whales were first identified in 1985 and are thought to be a sub-species of the common or North Atlantic minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).
The term ‘minke’ comes from the Norwegian word ‘minkhval’.
Minkes are baleen or ‘rorqual’ whales belonging to the same family or ‘glade’ as blue whales, the largest animal to ever inhabit Earth, and humpback whales, which also frequent the warm winter waters of the Great Barrier Reef during the Antarctic winter.
Like all baleen whales, they have two blow holes for breathing on the surface and are filter feeders. They use their baleen bristles to filter sea water and extract krill, other plankton and small fish, such as sardines and herring. Krill makes up the bulk of their diet.
Dwarf minke whales are the second smallest of the baleen whales averaging eight metres (25’) in length and weighing on average 6.4 tonne (14,000 lbs). Females can grow to over ten metres (30’) and weigh 10 tonnes (22,000 lbs). They are thought to live for over 50 years and reach sexual maturity at seven years.
They tend to travel in small family groups of two to four individuals, although pods of eight are regularly encountered.
Dwarf minke whales can swim up to 30 kilometres per hour (18 mph) and hold their breath up to 25 minutes.
Every winter dwarf minke whales travel to the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef after fattening up in the colder waters over the summer months, probably for courtship and mating.
Although they are in the ‘Reef’ from May to September, the best time to interact with them is June and July.
These gentle giants of the deep are very inquisitive and have been known to swim within a metre (3’) of divers – an experience not to be missed.
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Other great dives to do while you are there:
Pixie Pinnacle, Clam Beds, Lighthouse Bommie, Steve’s Bommie, Temple of Doom and Dynamite Pass.
Phone: (+61) 7 4053 0500