by Captain Trevor Jackson
There are several iconic wildlife interactions in the world that simply transcend reality. By that I mean, while you’re there, it doesn’t seem real, it seems too good to be true. Stampeding Elephants on the dusty plains of Kenya, Humpbacks posturing for a mate in the blue seas of Tonga, Great Whites ambushing the cage in the chilly green of the Neptune Islands. These encounters are bucket list quality stuff, the fodder of a thousand snapshots, of endless dinner party stories, the excitement, the thrill, the awe … it’s all happening. But there’s one I’ve left off my short list, one that conjures up not only the emotions and thrills I just mentioned, but also feelings of hope and of peace, of good things in our future … one that reminds us of true beauty , true grace … MINKES.
Every year, for just a short 6 week window, Dwarf Minke whales arrive for their winter layover in the Ribbon Reefs. Just 100 miles north of Cairns, the Ribbons provide a sanctuary from the high seas for what is arguably the most curious creature on earth. Indeed, its not just seeing Minkes that is the mindblower, it’s the way they seem to want to see you as well. Here’s how it works … the vessel searches for a short time and finds, or is approached, by a small group of Minke Whales, usually just two or three to start. The engines are switched off. Moments later, as the boat begins to drift, an eddy of calm water is formed on the windward side. Two long lines are trailed from the boat and the snorkelers swim out. Within minutes, we are drifting easily down wind. Minkes are a sociable mob and like to get together when somethings going on, so before long , the two or three, have become ten or fifteen!
After 20 or so minutes, the whales begin to swim in ever decreasing circles. 20 metres, 15 metres, 10 metres, 5 metres….Closer and closer until they are within arms reach … Sliding by in epic silence. A giant black eye peers right into your soul. You cant help but ask … “What’s that whale think of me?”. You’re reminded that the world has a place for all creatures, and we are just one of them.
To say swimming with Minkes is ‘life changing’, would be to reaffirm what almost everyone says, the moment they climb from the water. I often see folks looking out to sea with a strange calm about them, as though they had finally found something they’d been looking for, all their lives. I realize it must seem like an exaggeration and I guess there’s no real way to prove it, unless of course, you experience it for yourself.
See you on board.
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