Every year, from January to April, thousands humpback whales migrate to Silver Bank, a marine sanctuary in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Dominican Republic and southeast of the Territory of Turks & Caicos.
Here, humpbacks give birth and raise their calfs.
Females are often followed by “roudy males” who fight with each other for the attention of the female.
Three big boats reach this remote area and anchor in a relatively calm place, protected by a reef.
Two pangas patrol the rough waters in search of cooperative whales; there are two whale watching sessions a day and every session lasts around four hours.
Most of the sights are from the panga, but if the “right whale” is found, snorkelers can enter the water and admire the gentle giants in their natural environment.
“Right whales” are mothers with calfs, usually followed by an escort male, lone females and sleeping whales.
The use of tanks is prohibited and only snorkeling is allowed.
The operators are respectful and use a passive approach: snorkelers don’t swim and just wait on the surface for the whale to come.
Sometime the encounter lasts a few seconds, but other times, if the whale is curious and cooperative, the experience can last hours.
In brief, it is a challenging, hit or miss trip that can turn into the experience of a lifetime, but you must be patient and very lucky.
Climate: Air and water temperature is a pleasent 25° C.
When to go: From January to April, during the “whale season”.
Where to stay: Only three operators organize seven day expeditions to Silver Bank, departing from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: Turks & Caicos Aggressor II (the best), Sun Dancer II and Turks & Caicos Explorer II.
Best boat: Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, more stable than the others.
Diver’s tip: Humpback whales are curious, intelligent and peaceful creatures but, in case of very close encounters, take always a look to the huge pectoral fins and to the tale.
Web sites: www.aggressor.com