Breathtaking Swim with Whales encounter part of an amazing start to the season on the Sunshine Coast

A truly breathtaking encounter with a giant humpback whale saw guests some eye to eye with one of these amazing marine mammals, in what has been a part of an amazing start to the season on the Sunshine Coast.

Part of Australia’s 1st Swim with Humpback Whales, Sunreef has already guided thousands of people since starting tours in 2014 to see the whales from within their own environment.

Sunreef Mooloolaba owner Dan Hart said though this encounter was definitely among the top ten.

“This adult whale stayed with guests and our boat for about two hours in the end, and it kept circling around coming back again and again to get a closer look.

“While we are all getting good at practising social distancing due to Coronavirus, this whale definitely didn’t get that memo, coming within 10cm of guests again and again.”

Sunreef guide, Jonny Fell said the encounter was the best he had ever experienced.

“She was just so curious and the way she exercised her spatial awareness was incredible, as she swam up, around and in between us,” Jonny said.

He said the extraordinary experience started even before they got in the water.

“While we were still on the boat, the whale came over and mugged so coming super close to the boat. Then when she moved off, we got into the water when she was about 150metres away.

“As soon as we got in the water, she came straight over to us and the adventure truly began.

“The whale was just so curious, swimming in and around us. She would swim underneath and turn, looking straight at us.

“The whale was so close, you could see her blinking at us, it was just incredible!”

The Humpback Whales are back and the 2020 Whale Watching and Swim with Whales Season on the Sunshine Coast is in full swing.

Sunreef Mooloolaba’s Dan Hart said while this year’s whale watching season and Swim with Whales season had been affected by COVID-19.

“We have made changes to our tours and are operating under a COVID Safe plan which includes additional cleaning and hygiene measures and information for guests.

“At this stage, COVID Safe operations also means reduced numbers on all tours. While normally we would have up to 120 guests onboard each whale watching trip on Whale One, at this stage we are hosting just 65 guests for each trip, and only 10 guests, instead of 20 for our Swim with Whales tours.

“This means whichever tour you choose, there is plenty of extra room to move around the boat and see the whales in a more intimate way.”

Dan said this year’s season had already been great and was expected to be better than ever with whale researchers predicting the number of humpback whale migrating up Australia’s east coast to continue to increase.

“This year will see an expected 35,000 humpback whales migrate through Sunshine Coast waters, which could attract about 25,000 people to take a closer look and participate in a whale watching or swim with whales experience.

“While final numbers of guests for the season will depend on the continuing easing of COVID-19 restrictions, we are always super excited to continue to welcome the whales and to give guests the opportunity to get closer to them.

“While all of us humans have been restricting our movements, no one told the whales, so their migration is on track with other years.

“We are already seeing good numbers of whales including some calves and expect this to continue throughout the season.”

Dan said whale watching tours would be aboard Whale One, which underwent a total refurbishment last year, while Swim with Whales tours would be onboard Sunreef’s fast boats, Wild One, and the brand-new purpose-built Tsunami, which Sunreef took delivery of in March.

“The Whale Watching and Swim with Whales season is an economic driver for the tourism sector, during what is traditionally a quieter period,” Dan said.

“It’s even more important this year as the region begins its recovery following the COVID-19 shutdown.”

“Whale Watching brings in visitors, who spend not just on whale watching but also on accommodation, hospitality and other attractions, which in turn creates employment so we are super proud to be playing our part,” Dan said.

Dan Hart said the whale watching season would run through until 1st November, with the Swim with Whales season to run until 18th October.

All Sunreef’s whale tours are conducted 100% on the whales’ own terms and in accordance with whale watching guidelines and Sunreef’s on strict code of practice.

He said as part of Sunreef’s commitment to marine conservation, they will again be working closely with researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast to find out more about the humpback whale species, with two spots on each Whale Watching and Swim with Whales boats reserved for their use. To find out more or book your Whale Watching or Swim with Whales experience, visit or call 07 5444 5656.

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