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Can you swim with Humpback whales?

whale with fin in the air

As one of the most mythical creatures on the planet, swimming with humpback whales is an experience that people are drawn to from all corners of the globe. It’s an encounter that most people can only dream of, so soak up the beauty of nature and keep your eyes peeled.

Swimming with humpback whales is popular during the season, and tours on the Fraser Coast and Sunshine Coast commonly involve swimming. If your tour embarks on a swimming adventure, you’ll be fitted with a snorkel, mask and fins as there are often currents and you’ll see the best views from underwater.

While you don’t need to be at peak fitness, it’s important to be at a reasonably fit level so you can easily swim and snorkel. Each swim usually lasts only ten minutes or under, but it’s important that you are fit enough to be able to swim 200 metres to reach whales from the boat. Conditions can range from smooth, glassy water to rougher swells, so you need to be able to keep yourself safe in these conditions, as well as re-entering the boat via the ladder. Many tours recommend people who want to swim with whales to prepare themselves beforehand by spending as much time in the water as possible. 

It’s also important to note that swimming with humpback whales is weather dependent. If the conditions are rough, your skipper will not allow you in the water. 

Swimming with humpback whales is safe if you are respectful of the creatures and follow the directions of your skipper and the crew. Whales are considered some of the most gentle and kind-hearted animals on the planet, but swimming with them is always done at one’s own risk as, after all, they are still wild creatures. Despite this, whales are renowned for their consideration and often will move their fins and bodies to avoid hurting you if you are directly in their path. It is incredibly rare that a person gets injured from a whale, however it is important to avoid the fluke (their tail) as they cannot see you swimming behind them.

The ethics of swimming with whales is not black and white, however there are most certainly ethical ways to do it and unethical ways. Reputable and ethical tours do not allow guests to surround whales and let them swim wherever they please: it’s important to move quietly, in a small group and on the whales’ terms. If a whale does not want to interact, they will leave or indicate that guests should leave. Every experience swimming with whales is different from the last: some may be playful, curious and excited, and others may stick to themselves. It’s all part of their magic!

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