April 2 – April 9, 2016
Week Eleven of our 26th Season
As our eleventh and final week of 2016 has come to a close, we can look back over the season and feel grateful and privileged to have once again been invited to see these most graceful and awe-inspiring creatures in their own very special domain. As the end of April approaches, the last of the North Atlantic Humpback Whales that we see here on the Silver Bank and surrounding calving and breeding grounds will make their way back up to the Northern feeding grounds on the east coast of the United States and Greenland and off the coast of Norway. Those whales that were still here for this last week of the season treated us to some great surface activity and also to some wonderful and unforgettable in-water encounters.
We saw spectacular top-side activity from competitive groups of males hoping to mate one last time with a willing female, with numbers reaching as high as nine whales in one group. One can never tire of witnessing the raw power of these enormous beasts as they fight one another jockeying for pole position next to the female. These high energy battles can go on for hours and it is not surprising that they will often have “time-outs” to recuperate their strength and continue the rivalry. We were fortunate to be watching a group of seven whales when this “time-out” was called.
There were many chances to get in the water this last week. We were very lucky to encounter a relaxed mother, calf and escort resting in preparation for the long journey north. The mother allowed us to enter the water and watch her calf for a few breathing cycles while she and the escort rested below. We also encountered some individuals that appeared to be making the most of the warm and gentle waters for as long as they could before the need to return to the feeding grounds became too urgent. We had a young solo whale that stayed with our tenders for more than an hour simply resting and playing at the surface and a male/female pair that circled the tenders with obvious curiosity for their human visitors.
Once again we found our playful friends, the off-shore Atlantic spotted dolphins, or rather they found us! On the final day of the season we were treated again to another encounter with a chilled out humpback mother, calf and male escort that kept us entertained for more than half the day! This time the group was swimming ever so slowly not making any effort to leave us, as if the mother simply wanted to exercise her young calf in preparation for their migration. We had many opportunities to enter the water and watch the gentle giants as they slowly swam by just fifteen feet from us. Even more special was the very rare sighting of the mother nursing, expressing a thick and extremely fatty milk for her young calf. After a wonderful final week, this last in-water encounter really made the season for our guests and crew alike.
It’s been another unforgettable season on the Silver Bank of the Dominican Republic. We thank all of our guests for joining us and sharing in the magic of this very special place and most of all we wish for our giant friends, the Whales of the Silver Bank, a safe journey back north to fruitful feeding grounds. We look forward to seeing you again next year!
The Aquatic Adventures team hopes that you are as inspired as we are to help sustain the humpback whale population. Through our partnership with the Center for Coastal Studies, we are helping to gain critical information on these charismatic creatures, and to seek ways to protect and preserve them. To find out more about this effort, join their mailing list or to make a donation, large or small, please visit:
Thanks to all who have generously donated this season!
Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures