Great Barrier Reef Region Guide

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Humpback Whales

Updated: 15-Feb-2007

Whales are normally encountered during the winter months when they migrate up to the reef from Antarctic waters to mate and give birth. 

One of the most spectacular visitors during this period is the Humpback.  They are seen in the shallow coastal waters of the Great Barrier Reef ranging from Harvey Bay to Port Douglas. 

Humpbacks are the fifth largest animal on this planet, growing up to 15 metres in length with a weight of up to 45,000kg (99,000lbs) - equivalent to 11 elephants or 600 persons each!


They are the most acrobatic of all of the great whales, displaying a wide variety of leaping, rolling and breaching movements which provide fascinating viewing for whale watchers. Adult whales have been seen to breach 20 - 30 times within 5 minutes, displaying awesome grace and power.


The humpback whale is also well known for its complex underwater vocalisations or whale songs particularly during breeding.

Encounters, whilst never guaranteed, are frequent during our winter months, and many whales are also sighted while the vessel is travelling. Many of the various operators will stop or slow up and observe whales during the season.

There are restrictions on how close you may go so vessels keep a certain distance. However during the whale season many whales have approached divers, coming quite close to them and seemingly studying them. This is a rare and wonderful experience with those privileged few feeling touched by the experience and lost for words.

Whale watching is also conducted by a number of tourist operators through these areas.


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