Swim with Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef

3 Day / 3 Night Minke Whale & Ribbon Reefs Adventure from Cairns

3 Night Minke Whale and Ribbon Reef Trip (June/July) from Cairns

DIVE LEVEL: Our Cairns Minke Whale trip is suitable for snorkellers. No dive experience or certification is required.

DEPARTS: Cairns 11.30 am Thursday   RETURNS: Cairns 12:00 noon Sunday

DIVES: Up to 11 dives, with focus on in-water swim time with Minke Whales when located.

Minke Whale Dive Expeditions 2025: A Rare Experience on the Great Barrier Reef

There are few opportunities in a lifetime where you can experience the thrill of sharing the water with a creature as magnificent as a whale. Spirit of Freedom, as an endorsed tourism operator, hold a permit from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to offer a Swimming with Minke Whales activity. We are also a contributor  to the ongoing research conducted by the Minke Whale Project,  and assist with their multi-disciplinary research into dwarf minke whale biology and behaviour.

Dwarf minke whales travel through the Great Barrier Reef each winter during the months of June and July, when divers and snorkellers may have the opportunity to interact with dwarf minke whales in the warm water of the Great Barrier Reef. This is a unique and remarkable encounter.

Swimming with minkes – an extraordinary adventure!

These majestic creatures gracefully approach you as you swim, creating an incredible connection as you gaze into their eyes. It reminds you of the privilege of sharing the ocean with these amazing marine mammals.

Our Swimming with Minke Whale trip is a modified version of our 3 Night Cod Hole Liveaboard Dive Trip. We spend plenty of time exploring the amazing dive sites of the remote Ribbon Reef, with an underlying focus at all times to maximise potential in-water encounters with the whales.

Snorkeling and Diving with Whales

Whether you’re snorkeling or scuba diving, you can embark on minke whale excursions. The Ribbon Reefs provide clear winter waters where whales come very close, offering exceptional diving experiences. Safety measures are in place to protect both divers and whales, allowing you to observe the whales up close while giving them the freedom to approach naturally. Most close encounters with the whales occur while snorkeling on the water’s surface.

Trip Highlights:

When operating, these tours begin on a Thursday, departing from Cairns and heading north to the rarely visited Ribbon Reefs. Over two and half days you will have the opportunity for up to 11 dives. The number of dives is dependent on how much in-water swim time swimming with Minke Whales as the whales allow. Your last night is spent on board the Spirit of Freedom in the bay at Lizard Island. Enjoy time ashore at Lizard Island the next morning, before boarding your return flight to Cairns. The one-hour flight back will bring you back to Cairns around 12:00pm on Sunday.

See the full itinerary below for more details. 

This trip includes daily cabin service and chef-prepared gourmet meals (see your sample menu for details). Complimentary Australian wine or soft drinks are served with evening meals. 

Special Expedition: These tours are strictly seasonal, to coincide with the whales’ migration. Swimming with Minke Whales is a strictly controlled activity. Guests must follow crew instructions at all times.

Cabins & Rates

Our Cairns Minke Whale trip prices are per person in AUD$ and include:

  • Chef-prepared meals & snacks, wine and soft drinks are included with the evening meal
  • Tanks, air fills, Nautilus Lifeline and weight belt. Full equipment rental available.
  • Daily cabin service.
  • Cairns hotel or Airport transfers.
  • GST and all reef levies and fees.

Swimming with Minke Whales Safety

  • Suitable for snorkellers and competent divers with a good level of physical fitness.
  • Diver experience recommendation: Open Water certification with minimum 10 ocean dives, including 5 dives in the last 12 months.
  • Buddy teams are responsible for planning and conducting their own dives as we do not offer a full guided dive service. For guided dives we recommend a Great Barrier Reef Day Trip.
  • Ocean diving is a fun but strenuous activity - reduced physical fitness or limited scuba diving experience may limit your ability to participate fully. Safety is our number one priority. If in doubt, we recommend a Scuba Diver Refresher course prior to your trip.
  • Diver Health: If you have a medical condition or are currently taking prescription medication, you will need a medical clearance before joining our Cairns Minke Whale trip. Please contact us for guidance. 

Located on the top deck with internal stairwell access to the main deck, as well as external access to the top deck and dive deck, the Ocean View Deluxe Cabin boats a 10.5m² area with 3 large windows overlooking the starboard side of the vessel. 

A comfy double bed will ensure you are well rest for a full day of diving. The room features bedside tables, wardrobe and 26″ flat screen TV.

The cabin is fully air-conditioned and has its own private bathroom.

Double or Sole occupancy only.

Ocean View Deluxe Cabin

Our Ocean View cabin is located on the top deck with internal stairwell access to the main deck, as well as external access to the top deck and dive deck.

As the name suggests, you will enjoy stunning views from this air conditioned 7.2m² cabin, which contains a double bed, private bathroom, a wardrobe and 26” flat screen TV.

Double or Sole Occupancy only. 

Ocean View Standard Cabin

The largest of all cabins onboard the vessel, The Stateroom cabin is located in a private area on the lower deck, close to the dive deck and dining saloon.

Fully air-conditioned, this spacious 12m² cabin contains a queen size bed, a private bathroom, extra shelving, wardrobe, bedside tables and 26″ flat screen TV.

Double or Sole Occupancy only: no twin share option available.

The Stateroom

Spirit of Freedom has seven standard double or twin share cabins. Five of these cabins contain a double bed with a single bed over the top, bunk style. One cabin contains just a double bed and one cabin has two single beds.

These cabins are all located on the lower deck, with easy access to the main deck and have an average area of 10m² square metres in area. 

Fully air-conditioned, the cabins have an ensuite bathroom and also contain a wardrobe, personal reading light and a bedside table. 

 Please advise your preference for double or twin share when placing your booking. Sole occupancy also available. 

Standard Double or Twin Share

Located midships on the lower deck, the quad share cabin containing four single beds, bunk style and is a great options for groups or families as you explore the Great Barrier Reef on your epic dive adventure. 

This 9m² cabin has easy access to the main deck and includes a private ensuite bathroom and personal reading lights for each bed. 

The cabin is fully air-conditioned and also contains a wardrobe, as well as storage under the bottom two bunks. 

Quad Share Cabin


The Spirit of Freedom courtesy bus will pick you up from your Cairns hotel around 10:30am to transfer you to Trinity Wharf. There you will be greeted by the Spirit of Freedom crew, who will give you an orientation of the vessel before departing at 11.30 am. 

Enjoy lunch on board while we cruise to the Outer Great Barrier Reef for an afternoon check-out dive and a twilight or night dive. 

After dinner, we cruise north to the Ribbon Reefs and begin our Cairns Minke Whale trip adventure!

These two days are spent diving at the most northern of the Ribbon Reefs, Number 9 & 10 Ribbon Reefs.

Dive sites and sequence may vary depending on the weather conditions, but will always include at least one dive at the Cod Hole, where you encounter a family of massive and very friendly Potato Cod. Other sites may include Wonder-wall, Pixie Pinnacle, Challenger Bay, Two Towers, Lighthouse Bommie, and the Snake Pit, just to name a few. 

If the current is right, you may also take a drift dive at Dynamite Pass, well know as a channel for sharks to pass through. Visit our Ribbon Reefs page to learn more about our dive sites on the Ribbon Reefs. 4 to 5 dives will be available each day, including a night dive on the Friday. On Saturday evening we overnight at Watson’s Bay, Lizard Island, and enjoy a sunset BBQ dinner on the top deck.

This morning after breakfast you will disembark and say farewell to Spirit of Freedom. On shore, at Lizard Island, you can take the guided walk from Watson’s Beach to Mary Watson’s cottage over Chinaman’s Ridge and back to the air-strip. Here you will board a light aircraft for your flight back to Cairns. The one-hour flight arrives at Hinterland Aviation, Cairns General Aviation Airport around 11.15 to 11:45 am, where the Spirit of Freedom courtesy coach will meet you for your transfer back to your Cairns city hotel.

Trip Map

Cairns Liveaboard Diving Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

As our guest, you are free to enjoy your own diving style, within the boundaries of safe and responsible diving. As such we set no limits on time, depth or style of diving outside of normal safe diving practices. You and your buddy are in charge, planning your own dive and diving your own plan. Buddy teams may follow one of our inexperienced groups, led by a Safety Diver, and come and go as you please.

Every dive begins with a detailed dive briefing. The dive staff are on deck providing surface support including a safety lookout. When available, dive staff may be in-water offering support with photography and critter spotting. Spirit of Freedom does not offer a full guided dive service. Our Safety Divers are assigned to those divers who are at risk or to assist students.

Spirit of Freedom can accommodate a maximum of 24 guests and operates with a minimum of 12 crew members.

Spirit of Freedom is a COVID-19 Safe business and we are committed to the health and safety of all of our staff and customers. Our safety measures include:

  • All passengers must show proof of vaccination in order to travel.
  • All passengers must fill out a COVID-19 declaration form before travel and check-in using the Check In QLD app.
  • All passengers must comply with Queensland State Government entry requirements.
    All staff on board Spirit of Freedom are fully vaccinated.
  • Onboard hygiene precautions are in place throughout the vessel, including our dive deck.

To find out more about COVID-19 safety measures click here.

Spirit of Freedom provides divers with a mask, snorkel, boots, fins, tanks, weights, and weight belts. We also supply safety equipment including surface marker buoys, whistles, and Nautilus LifeLine Marine GPS. Cyalume sticks and torches will also be provided for night diving.

For more detail on what equipment is available aboard Spirit of Freedom, visit our equipment rental page.

For the Thursday trip, boarding is from 11.15 am -11.30 am Thursday morning, for a 12 pm (noon) departure. The vessel is located at Trinity Wharf at the end of Lake Street. Taxis and coaches can drive up onto the wharf to locate the vessel, which is usually berthed under the clock tower.

Shark Dive - Great Barrier Reef
Upgrade to 7 Night Cod Hole + Coral Sea Trip

Stay an extra 4 nights on the Coral Sea and visit the Osprey Reef and other amazing dive sites.

Free Concierge Service

Let our local travel experts assist you with information, advice, and activity booking services before and after your trip.