Whales. The mere mention of the word conjures awe inspiring thoughts to most people. The highlight of any Great Barrier Reef trip is to catch a glimpse of one of the different species of whales that traverse the length of the reef.
We quite regularly see whales at the surface during the winter on our way to and from the outer reef. Swimming with humpback whales is not permitted and operators need a special permit in order to allow passengers to get in the water and snorkel with dwarf minke whales. In practice this is not particularly practical on a day trip, as in whale season it’s also quite windy and often not safe to let large groups of people in the water away from the shelter of the reef. On Wavelength, we do occasionally get to snorkel with minke whales in June and July (and seeing inquisitive whales approach underwater is incredible) but it’s on the whales terms when they decide to approach whilst the boat is moored at the reef sites.
The best way to see these beautiful creatures underwater is a specialised liveaboard trip; check out Eye to Eye Marine Encounters in Port Douglas. These trips have the time to search for the whales and wait for them to approach. There are very strict in-water guidelines, such as holding onto a tether rope from the vessel and not swimming freely, designed to allow the encounter to not impact on the whales. This original operator has done the groundwork and research on these whales and recognize the same individual whales each season that come and say hello.
Dolphins and whales have voices, but it’s a lot different from most other mammals. The limited visibility under water makes sounds and hearing very important for them and they use sound to communicate. The sounds of the whales are not produced with their mouth/beak but only inside their blow-hole. Whales also use frequencies that reach far beyond our hearing capabilities.
Large whales can communicate over very large distances (several hundred kilometers!) using very low frequencies. Dolphins usually use higher frequencies which limits the distance.
Toothed whales use sound not only to communicate, but also to “see”. Similar to bats they send out sounds and listen to the echo that comes back from objects (like fish or rocks). This kind of SONAR (SOund NAvigation Ranging) works very well. Even in complete darkness they can find their way through the ocean and also find their food.
When you listen to the sounds you will usually hear two kinds of sounds. One that sounds like whistling (high pitched sounds) and one that sounds like a rattle or clicking. In general the whistles are for communication and the clicks are for SONAR and echolocation.
All whales and dolphins are protected within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This includes rules about how close they should be approached. Imagine you are a whale travelling up and down the coast and how many days you would have boats around you if there were no regulations.
Our full day snorkel tours visit three outer reef sites, each day. The skipper picks these on the day, from our wide selection of exclusive outer reef moorings. Our aim is to show you the best reef, and the diversity of reef types.More Info
Wavelength employs qualified marine biologists as crew, in order to offer a high level of interpretation of the Great Barrier Reef. They provide guided snorkel tours and reef talks.More Info
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