Whales Of The Silver Bank

Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

whale

Thank you for your interest in a Whales of the Silver Bank expedition! Observing humpback whales above and below water is without a doubt one of the most unique and moving experiences available, so we are delighted you are considering joining us. We would like to give you a brief background and explanation of what you'll encounter if you join us on the Silver Bank.

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The Silver Bank and surrounds yearly play host to thousands of migrating North Atlantic humpback whales. In 2005, NOAA humpback whales researchers aboard the R/V Gordon Gunther conducted an extensive population count in the region, and the results indicate that between 5000-7000 humpbacks pass through this oddly shaped, forty square mile sanctuary each winter. Indeed, research indicates that the Silver Bank contains the largest seasonal population of humpbacks in the North Atlantic Ocean, if not the world.

Why humpbacks undertake such an extensive migration is unknown, as is their exact route, but we do know that their arrival is reliable and predictable. Pregnant female humpbacks calve during this time, and estrous females seek to mate; testosterone peaks in males and competition is high. Surface activity is frequent during this time: breaching, lob tailing, and fin slapping are some of the behaviors that can be seen on a daily basis. Rowdy, or competitive, groups also form frequently and are an especially exciting behavior unique to the mating grounds. Rowdy groups are composed of two or more males vying for proximity to a female; the dramatic efforts to displace one another are thrilling to witness. Males become more vocal during this time as well, and the seas are filled with their plaintive song.

Kinsea Maru

Your Destination

Located about 90 km north of the Dominican Republic, the Silver Bank is one of the few breeding and calving zones of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale. Declared a whale sanctuary in 1986 by then President Joaquin Balagaer (and later enlarged and renamed the “Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic”), the Silver Bank and surrounds yearly play host to thousands of migrating North Atlantic Humpback Whales. In 2005, NOAA researchers aboard the R/V Gordon Gunther conducted an extensive population count in the region, and the results (encompassing a six-week period and twelve-mile circumference) indicate that between 5000-7000 humpbacks pass through this oddly shaped, forty square mile sanctuary each winter. Indeed, research indicates that the Silver Bank contains the largest seasonal population of humpbacks in the North Atlantic Ocean, if not the world.

Humpback Whale Fluke

Sanctuary Information

With the formation of National Marine Parks, Coral Reef and Marine Mammal Legislation and the establishment of numerous research and conservation organizations, the Dominican Republic is constantly improving its methods of protecting our oceans. In 1982, the Natural History Museum was completed in Santo Domingo boasting an impressive humpback whale exhibit. In 1991, the National Aquarium was opened featuring a rehabilitation facility to support their Marine Stranding Network. The Dominican Republic (in partnership with IVCN of the United Nations, The Nature Conservancy, University of Miami, the Center for Marine Conservation, Coastal America, Center for Coastal Studies and the Smithsonian Institute) is one of the leaders in contributing important data for the preservation of our marine environment. Additionally, they are the first Latin American country to apply the latest recommendations from both the Convention for Biological Diversity and the Coral Reef Initiative.

Two Humpback Whales

Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic

On July 5, 1996, by presidential decree No. 233/96, Article 22, the Silver Bank sanctuary (established on October 14, 1986) was enlarged and renamed the “Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic.” The jurisdiction of the sanctuary currently encompasses Samana Bay and the Northern and Eastern coastline of the Dominican Republic, an area frequently traveled by the North Atlantic humpback whale while enroute to various breeding and calving locations in the Antilles. These breeding and calving grounds include the waters of the Dominican Republic (primarily Silver Bank, Navidad Bank and Samana Bay), Puerto Rico (Mona Passage), the Virgin Islands (Virgin Bank) and Anguilla (Anguilla Bank).

Pectoral Fin

Silver Bank Sanctuary

This was a monumental achievement for the sanctuary commission, and placed an even larger emphasis on the educational and regulatory aspects of it’s duties. The commission was required to define guidelines and regulations for each distinctive area of the sanctuary (areas are delineated for whale activity and travel, whale watching, tourism, local boat traffic, water sports equipment, scuba diving, fishing and transient ship traffic). With the knowledge gained since the inception of the Silver Bank Sanctuary in 1986, and the assistance of national and international advisors, the sanctuary commission designed guidelines and regulations that remain at the forefront of sanctuary creation and management worldwide.

Underwater Whale

Operator Workshops

These workshops cover Sanctuary history, humpback whale history and ecology, regulations, passenger briefings, feeding zones, feeding behaviors, migration, breeding and calving zones, breeding and calving behavior, surface postures, terminology, theories, previous observations, approach techniques, soft-in-water encounter techniques, professional film crew and photographer techniques, and whale watching etiquette between operators. It’s imperative that all persons involved in promoting and executing research and whale watching activities follow the same modus operandi, thereby establishing a harmonious relationship between operators and ensuring safety for operators, guests, and whales. In 2007, Tom Conlin, founder of Aquatic Adventures, was asked by the Secretary of the Environment to rewrite the regulations, contracts and agreements for all operators and visitors of the Sanctuary.

From Our Clients

The Crew did a great job evaluating and then setting up the encounters to maximize the time in the water with the whales. The food was excellent as was the after dinner presentations.

-- Matt and Joedee Foster