To engage with minke whales in Australia, you can't just jump in a Zodiac and scoot a few miles off shore.
They linger further out -- much further out -- at the outer northern rim of the Great Barrier Reef.

And the only way to get there is via one of a handful authorized operators; in this case Mike Ball Dive Adventures as part of a voyage that departed from tiny Lizard Island -- accessed by a 150-mile low-level flight -- and arriving back to port in Cairns four days later.
Adventurers live aboard in 100 feet of twin-hulled comfort, sleeping two to a cabin and feted with meals the equal of any mainland resort. 

Wrapped around an hour of whale watching -- and the constant search for them -- was more than a half -dozen spectacular dives at various sites in the ribbon reefs, the hallowed ground of scuba and home to marine life probably more diverse -- if not deadly -- than any place on earth.

From giant potato cod to countless reef sharks to sinister snakes, the ocean's vast wilderness and vibrant colour put to rest, for four days at least, the worrisome, widespread bleaching of coral reefs in Australia and around the world.