March 26 – April 2, 2022
Week Ten of our 31st Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on its 31st season of providing our guests the unique opportunity to encounter the North Atlantic humpback whales on their breeding and calving grounds, the Silver Bank. As the season unfolds, we’ll highlight some of the various encounters and experiences of our guests each week. We hope you enjoy following along!
After a calm eight hour crossing from Puerto Plata to the Silver Bank, we moored up around 9am and prepared the tenders for the afternoon. Tom Conlin started the introduction to the Silver Bank by talking to the guests about our process while in the water with the whales, called a “passive in-water whale encounter”, which is an original practice developed by Tom himself over 30 years ago. The method allows guests to quietly and safely enter the water and snorkel with humpback whales. The key to this is that the guests never approach the whale in an aggressive manner and stay as a passive observer of nature throughout the entire encounter.
With the group fully prepared to enter the water with a humpback whale, we headed out on our first excursion. Challenger, one of our tenders, came across a single whale that was singing. Humpback whales are very acoustic and their song can be heard by other whales over 100 miles away. It is important to enter the water as quietly as possible as to not disturb the whale. If it is disturbed, it may “kick off” and not settle again, making it next to impossible to have another chance of getting in the water with them again. Even the sounds of the engine on the tender become recognizable to the whale and our drivers are trained to use the engines on the boat in a way that doesn’t spook the whale. If the whale is treated with respect, they will become accustomed to the noises made by the visitors and perhaps even be attracted to them.
Each whale is different, each encounter unique. This of course, is determined by the whale. For example, on the second day out this week we ventured across a mother, calf and escort. The escort was keeping his distance and the mother circled the tenders with her calf. Once we put the guests in the water, she seemed very curious, coming close to them then swimming back to the tender. Every time the tender’s engine would be put in gear and the propellers began to turn, she would turn towards it and sometimes hang underneath or just in front of the bow.
It was evident that this mother and calf enjoyed the sounds and vibrations coming from the tender. The Aquatic Adventures crew has a saying “Sharing is Caring” which for us means, if there is an incredible encounter with one group, call the other group to share in the fun. We called Challenger over to get into the water with this dynamic mother and calf. Escort picked up its people and fell back as Challenger’s people entered the water, but the whale had become accustomed to Escort’s engines and continued to follow it. “Humpback Whale Delivery!” Tom calls over the radio as he drives back towards the other guests with the whales in tow. Everyone gets a chance to be in the water with the friendly giants as long as Escort is around.
What a beautiful week, full of unique encounters. To finish off, for the last evening on board the whales weren’t the only ones singing. Guests walked into the salon for dinner where curled pieces of shiny decorations hung from the ceilings, party hats lined the tables and crew were singing happy birthday. The Turks & Caicos Explorer II crew always goes out of their way to make any birthday on board a memorable one. This week one of our crew members shared their birthday with a guest, making it extra special. After a quick but lively dance off between them we all shared in the celebration by sitting down to a lovely cream cheese icing, carrot and pecan birthday cake created by our very own chef Jo. Happy (belated) Birthday Kris and Stokke!
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: www.coastalstudies.org/aquaticadventures
We are proud to support SeaLegacy in their efforts to create powerful media to change the narrative around our world’s oceans. Their mission is to inspire the global community to protect our oceans. To learn more about SeaLegacy and help with this important mission, please visit: https://www.sealegacy.org
Thanks to all who have generously donated!
Learn more about Aquatic Adventures here.
Written by: Aquatic Adventures team member Gillian Morin
Edited by: Aquatic Adventures team member Heather Reser
Images: Aquatic Adventures