One of the most exciting events to look forward to on the Great Barrier Reef in July are Dwarf Minke Whales! As the name says, for a baleen whale they are rather small, growing to a maximum of 8 meters, or 24 ft, and on the endangered list, thank you Japan for slaughtering Minkes illegally every year. The ones I saw this year, off of the Spirit of Freedom, were not that large, but it was a thrill to see them. Sadly, I only had a few seconds to enjoy a close, eye to eye encounter. A few times we “snorkeled” (we were hanging onto a rope) in order to see them, and on the day whales came close, an event on board shut the encounter down.
A woman onboard who was also on the rope, had breathing issues. I’m still not sure what happened, whether she had a panic attack or a seizure, but she had a health incident and the crew got us all out of the water. I was the last person on the rope, so I was lucky enough to have a short encounter with two whales, a mum and a calf, but it did not last long enough. I was face to face with them, no more than 6 feet away, but I had to get out of the water so the boat could take off for Lizard Island so she could be airlifted to Cairns. The story had a happy ending, she was stable by the time we got to Lizard Island, thank goodness. But the whale story certainly was cut short! The crew was very professional and dealt with the emergency quickly and well.
After the airlift, the boat headed for famous Cod Hole. The dive site is famous for large (and I mean LARGE) Potato Cods who will come close to divers. The dive master feeds them to get them to hang around. Sadly, I only saw one Potato Cod, but it was a very cool experience being face to face with that big boy (or girl!). All of us thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle!