February 6 ~ February 13, 2016
Week Three of our 26th Season
As the sun rose over the horizon on the Silver Bank, so began our third week of the Humpback Whale season here in the Dominican Republic. Three of our guests this week had birthdays during the charter and what better way to celebrate your birthday than to be out on the open sea, watching The Whales of the Silver Bank in all their splendor!
Spirits were high as the week kicked off with some spectacular surface activity from more than three different mother and calf pairs on our first day out on the tenders. Mothers and calves are often accompanied by an adult male whale, termed an Escort, that will swim alongside or in the general vicinity of the female in the hope of mating with her. Although an Escort would never normally show any aggression towards the female or her calf, their presence can sometimes be an irritation to a mother whose only focus is to wean and teach her newborn. If other males challenge the escort’s position, the resulting heated battles between the escort and challengers can be stressful for the new mum and babe. On this first morning of whale watching the mother and calf pairs that we encountered were unencumbered by escorts and appeared to be relaxed and happy in the Dominican sunshine. The first juvenile we observed was full of the joys of spring, practicing their newly learnt postures and poses with multiple chin breaches and full body breaches, over and over again with seemingly unending energy! This provided fantastic photographic opportunities for our guests and as both mother and baby began to calm down and rest we were able to enter the water and capture priceless images and memories of the two whales as they cruised under the tender, mere feet below the snorkelers at the surface.
The lucky guests had many opportunities throughout the week to experience the whales up close and personal. We had more in-water encounters with mothers and calves and some spectacular surface activity from rowdy groups. One of the rowdy groups consisted of six whales; a mother, calf, escort and three challenging males vying for the attentions of the female. A maelstrom of fin slapping, lob-tailing, breaching and lunging, often only 10 or 20 feet from the tender! After all that excitement we had a wonderful chance to really appreciate the gentle giants with both tenders getting to spend nearly an hour in the water with a pair of sleeping adults, observing from only a few feet away as the sleepy marine mammals gracefully made their way to the surface to breathe every 25 minutes or so.
The highlight of the week for many of our guests and crew alike was the chance to hear a singing whale for the second week in a row! While exiting the water after a fly-by with a mother, calf and escort, one of our whale crew recognized the distinctive whoops and squeals of a singing whale some distance away. After some exploratory dips in the area by Aquatic Adventures team member of 13 years, Lorenzo Martinez – the human hydrophone! – we were able to pin-point the singer’s exact location and spend several minutes in the water with the musical whale before he moved on to serenade in another area of the Silver Bank.
Our last afternoon out on the water brought some wet and windy weather but this deterred neither the guests nor the whales and we were treated to the awesome sight of a triple full-body breach by three adult whales providing an impressive finale for the week!
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:
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Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures