Just one month into the 2016 Swim with Humpback Whales season and already it’s looking like it will be the best yet for Sunreef Mooloolaba who offer Australia’s first Swim with Whales Experience.
“So far this season, we have had more successful swims with the whales than ever before – it seems there are more whales and calves around for this time of the season – and they seem more curious as well,” Sunreef’s Dan Hart said.
“It’s always hard to describe such an awe-inspiring experience – nothing can describe the feeling when you are just metres away from these animals, and they look you straight in the eye – but I can tell you it’s amazing and unique every time, and something people will remember forever.
“We have had some just incredible encounters so far this season, and already we are seeing mamma whales with their calves as well, and the reactions from our guests have been great,” he said.
“Everyone is so awestruck. We see the whales from the surface, and then you will hear the swimmers squealing excitedly through their snorkels as the whale swims past, or under them in the water – its takes your breath away every time!”
The 2016 Swim with Whales season will run until 23rd October and is Sunreef’s third, having launched the Experience in 2014, after more than three year’s research and work with whale researchers.
Sunreef also continues to work with researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast who are looking at whale behaviours, people’s reactions to the experience and how it affects their perception and opinions of whales and also at the economic benefits of this new tourist activity for the region.
Dan said Sunreef were dedicated to assisting with this research and to making people more aware of the importance of preserving whales and the marine environment.
The four-hour Swim with Whales tours offers a unique and intimate experience with just 20 guests aboard, with some tours taking place on Australia Zoo’s research vessel Croc One as well as Sunreef’s own Four Shore. With the limited season from July to October, everyone is encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment.
This year, more than 24,000 humpbacks are expected to make the migration north from Antarctica. After eating up to four tonne of krill and small fish a day each in the Antarctic over summer, the Humpbacks are migrating to the warmer northern waters which provide perfect temperatures to give birth to their calves in the sheltered waters of Queensland’s coastline.
Dan said Sunreef’s Swimming with Whales Experience was operated under a strict Code of Conduct to protect both the whales and the participants.
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, swimmers will be allowed into the water with a guide and a floating line attached to the boat for safety.
“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.
The trips include wetsuit and snorkelling gear hire. 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 2016 Sunreef Swim with Whales season will run through until October 23, 2016, and costs $149 per person so availability is limited.
Sunreef Mooloolaba, based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is the longest established dive centre on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland, Australia) with roots starting back in 1976. Sunreef Mooloolaba is a 5 Star PADI Training Centre, is the largest dive centre in South East Queensland 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.