Minke Whale Expeditions from Cairns


TRAVEL UPDATE: All overnight trips are currently on hold

Dwarf Minke whale diving trips from Cairns are a highlight of the scuba diving calendar, and one that can only be experienced at the Great Barrier Reef. Amazing encounters with these inquisitive whales happen at the peak of their migration every June and July.

This is when the whales move from Antarctic waters up to the Ribbon Reefs. This renowned Great Barrier Reef dive location is only accessible on an overnight trip.

We operate four-day, four-night Minke whale expeditions every year during June and July. Spaces are limited and trips sell out quickly!

Expeditions are open to both snorkellers and divers, with whale interactions strictly controlled. Dwarf Minke whales grow up to 8 metres (26 feet) long, and a closeup encounter with these majestic 6-tonne creatures is an experience you will never forget.

Minkes often approach snorkellers, divers and boats, so there is every chance to see them close up. Our success rate for close sightings during a Minke whale dive over the peak season is over 90%, and your interaction with the whales could last two hours or more!

After your encounter, join us in participating in vital citizen science research to help understand and protect these gentle sea giants.

Minke whale expeditions take place on our liveaboard vessel OceanQuest. With air-conditioned cabins, each with en suite bathroom, a comfortable lounge and bar and an onboard chef delivering delicious hearty meals, you’ll have everything you need to rest and relax after your minke whale encounter.

Available on:

OceanQuest during June & July


4 days, 4 nights (trips depart Friday, return Tuesday)

Dive sites:

Ribbon Reefs including Steve's Bommie, Lighthouse Bommie, Pixie's Pinnacle, Clam Garden, Challenger Bay and more (dependent on conditions)

Accommodation Options:

OceanQuest has 18 twin cabins and four double cabins. All cabins are air conditioned with en suite bathrooms.


  • Snorkel equipment, including wetsuits
  • Air fills
  • All meals on board
  • Fresh chilled water, tea and coffee
  • Prescription masks (deposit required)
  • Dive guides
  • Transfers from Cairns city accommodation

Book now

19 June 2020 (4 days, 4 nights)

Cost per person
Snorkeller, twin cabin
Snorkeller, double cabin
Diver, twin cabin
Diver, double cabin

26 June 2020 (4 days, 4 nights)

Prices as above

3 July 2020 (4 days, 4 nights)

Prices as above

10 July 2020 (4 days, 4 nights)

Prices as above

​Prices valid from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Taxes/Levies are per person, per day (subject to change without notice). Fee includes: Environmental Management Charge (EMC) $7.00. Fuel, Port, and Administration Charges $13.00.


Minke Whale Expedition


Day 1 (Friday)
Your journey starts here! Check in at Divers Den shop, 319 Draper Street at 7.30am to board our transfer vessel SeaQuest. We’ll make our way to the Outer Barrier Reef and enjoy two dives at either Saxon or Norman Reef, before transferring to OceanQuest at approximately 2.30pm. You’ll enjoy one afternoon dive and one night dive before we steam to the Ribbon Reefs overnight.

Day 2 (Saturday)
Wake up to the sun rising over the Great Barrier Reef at Steve’s Bommie, one of the best dive sites on the reef thanks to its huge array of marine life including schools of fish, sharks, rays, nemos, octopus and more. You will enjoy four dives today, two at Steve’s Bommie and two others (including one night dive) at various other sites on the upper Ribbon Reefs.

Day 3 (Sunday)
We kick the weekend off with more diving and snorkelling opportunities throughout the Ribbon Reefs, giving you the opportunity to explore some of the Great Barrier Reef’s most untouched areas. Four dives are included in today’s itinerary. Your two morning dives will be at Lighthouse Bommie, where most of our interactions with Minke whales take place. You’ll also have an an afternoon dive and another night dive.

Day 4 (Monday)
Explore more of the Great Barrier Reef at various dive sites along the Ribbon Reefs over four incredible dives – two in the morning, one in the afternoon and one night dive. The reef locations that we visit are less frequented by any other boats, and are home to many tropical fish species and bright mesmerising coral. After your night dive (finishing around 8pm) we will steam south towards Cairns.

Day 5 (Tuesday)
Wake up to your last morning on OceanQuest. After breakfast, you will be transferred back to your Cairns city accommodation at approximately 9am, so you’ll be able to plan other activities on this day.

Please note itinerary may vary slightly depending on weather conditions. Our dive schedule will be adjusted to enable as much in-water interaction with the Minke whales as possible.

Additional info


What to bring

  • Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Swimsuit and towel
  • Overnight bag with changes of clothing, including warm clothing and socks for overnight wear
  • Toiletries
  • Cert card and logbook (for certified divers)
  • Reef and Port Authority charges ($20 per person per day)

Bedding and bath towels are supplied on board. Excess baggage can be stored at our Draper Street office at check in.

Diving and Altitude

Currently the rules state that for a single no decompression dive, you should not fly/go to altitude for at least 12 hours, or 18 hours after multiple dives. Divers Den recommends waiting a minimum 24 hours whenever possible. These are guidelines only, there is no guarantee that these recommendations will prevent decompression sickness. There are no current guidelines regarding diving after flying.

Altitude is defined as 300m/1000ft above sea level. This includes going to the Atherton Tablelands (a popular local scenic attraction), so be careful if booking tours to follow your dive trip. Under normal circumstances, you should be out of the water on your last dive at 8pm the night before you return to Cairns.