AS the humpback whales are feeding up in the Antarctic ready for their migration to a warmer climate for winter, Sunreef Mooloolaba are preparing for their third Swim with Whales season on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Sunreef Mooloolaba’s Dan Hart said the whales are currently feeding, eating in excess of one tonne of krill and small fish a day, increasing their blubber reserves, which they will live off throughout their migration north, not eating apart from the occasional opportune feed until they return home.
“More than a tonne a day sounds like a lot but for their weight, they eat less than us. While humpbacks consume about 11 times their body weight in a year, people eat approximately 16 times theirs.”
Sunreef Mooloolaba are the pioneers of Swimming with Humpback Whales in Australia and are looking forward to again hosting more than 2000 guests from throughout Australia and the world during the four-month season from 8th July to 23rd October.
“Swimming with these gentle giants of the deep is an almost indescribable privilege and something you will remember forever,” Dan said.
“It is very special – I love hearing everyone’s reactions as well – as soon as people spot them you can hear everyone squealing excitedly through their snorkels.”
Dan said the four-hour tours, which complied with national whale watching guidelines as well as Sunreef’s own strict Code of Practice, provide a unique and intimate experience with just 20 guests aboard.
Guests need to be eight years or older and be competent swimmers. All children must also be accompanied by an adult.
“Once everyone has been kitted out with a wetsuit and snorkelling gear at our Dive Centre, we jump aboard the boats – either one of Sunreef’s own vessels or Australia Zoo’s research vessel Croc One – and we head out.”
“Each trip starts full briefing on what to expect and safety procedures before heading out the river mouth.
“Then it’s all eyes on the water – the whales generally swim along the same path – what we call the whale highway, which is about 15 nautical miles off the Coast but we often can encounter them much closer.
“We look for the tell tail “blow” which is water that is projected between three and six metres high from two blow holes (or nostrils) between the whale’s snout and dorsal fin.
“On average adult whales surface every five to 15 minutes but can dive and stay submerged for up to 45 minutes. Calves must surface every three to five minutes.” Dan said.
“Then once a whale or pod of whales is sighted we follow them at a safe distance for a while before positioning the boat more than 100metres away and putting it in neutral. If the conditions are determined safe by our trained crew, swimmers will be allowed into the water with a guide and a floating safety line attached to the boat.
“From this point it’s all up to the whale – it is a natural experience and it is 100% on the whale’s own terms,” Dan said.
“Even if you don’t get to swim with the whales this is still an intimate and awesome whale watching experience.”
Dan said that 2016, is shaping up to be a big year for the Swim with the Whales experience with over 22,000 whales expected to migrate north for the winter.
“With the season running from the 8th July to 28th October, there are a limited number of trips available, with only 20 spots available on each vessel. We are encouraging people to book early and consider booking two to three experiences to avoid disappointment due to weather cancelation.
“I just can’t wait to get in the water with them again. It’s such a unique experience that every time it’s just like my first all over again. It’s almost indescribable but it gives you a rare insight into their world – it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
The Swim with Whale Experience is just $149 per person.
Sunreef Mooloolaba, based in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is the longest established dive centre on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland, Australia) with roots starting back in 1976. It is now also the largest Dive Centre in South East Queensland, with its new centre at The Wharf Mooloolaba including a large showroom, gear room as well as dedicated classroom.
Sunreef is a PADI 5 Star Training Centre and offers accredited dive courses for all levels of divers as well as local reef dives in the Sunshine Coast region including the ex-HMAS Brisbane and offers international dive trips and travel as well as Swim with the Whales experience, dive equipment sales and servicing.
For more information on Sunreef, the Swim with Whales Experience and Sunreef’s diving adventures, including the ex-HMAS Brisbane wreck, visit www.sunreef.com.au or call 07 5444 5656.
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