Whales Ahoy! Get Ready to Swim with Whales

whales - people swimming with whales

Have a whale of a time on the Sunshine Coast

The first humpback whales for the 2023 season have been sited off Mooloolaba, heralding the arrival of some 40,000 whales expected to traverse the Sunshine and Fraser coasts over the next five months.

Sunshine Coast’s leading marine tours operator, Sunreef, has announced a wide range of whale-watching cruises for the season, including their pioneering Swim with Whales tours.

The season will run through till the end of October, capturing the progress of the whales on their 10,000km return journey from the Antarctic, firstly as they swim north to Hervey Bay, K’gari (formerly Fraser Island), and the Great Barrier Reef, and then return later in the year, often accompanied by their calves.

whales - whale breaching off Cooloom

Five months of ‘Whale Central’ coming soon

Sunreef operates from its base at The Wharf Mooloolaba, which is set to become “Whale Central” over the next five months. 

New activations will include special kids “find the whale” competitions during school holidays, and in an Australian – possibly world – first, a special Ocean’s Journey Whale Ale has been created by Mooloolaba craft brewer Blackflag inspired by the awesome spectacle of whale migration.

The craft beer will be available from restaurants and bars throughout The Wharf.

According to Blackflag: “Ocean’s Journey Whale Ale is a masterfully crafted Coastal Pale that pays homage to the grandeur of whale migration.

With its vibrant citrus notes, tropical fruit flavours, and balanced bitterness, this beer captures the essence of the ocean and the awe-inspiring journey of these majestic creatures. Raise a glass, savour the flavours, and join in the celebration of the wonder and beauty that is whale migration.”

Blackflag has also committed to donating a portion of the profit from Whale Ale sales to the Australian Marine Conservation Society. 

Shore thing: nature-based experiences for you

This year’s whale-watching season was already attracting considerable interest from both interstate and overseas, Sunreef Mooloolaba’s Philip Hart said.

“The message is that people want premium nature-based experiences.  

“Whale numbers appear to be increasing at an average of about 10% a year, and given the interest, we are extending opportunities for people to view these remarkable mammals in what is one of Australia’s most pristine environments. 

“With international capacity beginning to return to 2019 levels, we are receiving strong overseas interest for our Swim with Whales tours. People are prepared to travel considerable distances for such a unique opportunity. 

“One of the major attractions is that we only offer these tours on the whales’ terms.  We have the strictest code of conduct, only operate with small groups, and invariably provide a profound and memorable experience.” 

Whale watching: take the plunge!

Swim with Whales cruises are restricted to a maximum of 15 participants, who are outfitted with wetsuits, fins, masks, and snorkels.whales - swimming with whales

The expert crew first spots the whales, then the vessel is positioned ahead of the humpbacks’ predicted route and snorkelers enter the water and wait for the magic to happen.  

“The rest is completely up to the whale,” said Mr Hart “If they want to come to you, they come to you – and more often than not, they do. They’re just as interested in us as we are in them. They’re very curious creatures.

Swim with Whales cruises start from 1 July, with daily cruises (subject to conditions) through to October. Adult tickets are available for $249 and include all equipment, expert commentary and guiding, and refreshments.

Sunreef’s whale watching season has already begun, with the purpose-designed Whale One vessel providing daily cruises. Adult tickets are $85, children $65.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO, Matt Stoeckel, said that the whale watching and swimming tours support Sunshine Coast’s reputation as a leading nature-based tourism destination. 

“We know our whale experiences are top of our visitors’ to-do list across the winter months.

Need a pint? Try the first-ever ‘Whale Ale’

“This year it has been great to see the Sunshine Coast community get on board with the launch of the whale season with a series of events in the planning, even including the creation of a Whale Ale in honour of our migrating mammals,” said Mr Stoeckel.

“As Australia’s ‘Craft Beer Capital’ it was brilliant that Blackflag could capture the vibrancy of the whale migration in this new beverage. It is the perfect addition to our craft brew collection.

“The whale season also arrives at the same time as direct flights from Auckland recommence, enabling our Kiwi friends the opportunity to enjoy ‘sunshine by lunchtime’ and view whales in the afternoon.”

For further information and bookings: https://sunreef.com.au/

Whales - Blackflag Brewery

Enjoying the first-ever ‘Whale Ale’ at Blackflag Brewery on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland’s South East.

Story and photos contributed by Visit Sunshine Coast

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