Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S26:W11

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:

www.coastalstudies.org/aquaticadventures

Thanks to all who have generously donated this season! 

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Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures 

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S26:W10

March 26 ~ April 2, 2016
Week Ten of our 26th Season  

Our penultimate week on the Silver Bank and the whale action has by no means slowed down. Although some of the Humpbacks that migrate here every year will have already begun their long journey back up north to the feeding grounds, many are still here enjoying the Caribbean sunshine for another couple of weeks; mothers taking the opportunity to strengthen their growing calves for a little longer and males cruising the calm waters looking for that last chance to mate!

Once again we encountered rowdy groups of adult males in pursuit of that premium position next to a female in estrus in the hope of mating and lots of top side activity from mothers and calves as the youngsters practice the breaches and fin slaps that Humpback whales are famous for.  But the most memorable and unique encounters this week for our lucky guests and what makes the Silver Bank such a special place for whale watching must surely be the in-water experiences with whales. Once again for the third week in a row we were extremely fortunate to be able to locate a singing whale and get in the water for a live performance! Even if you have heard a recording of the famous Humpback song, it just cannot compare to the sensation of being forty feet over the head of a whale and feeling the vibration of the majestic beast’s song as it rings out for miles over the Silver Bank.

Early on in the week we found a cooperative mother and calf pair that allowed us to have a soft-in-water encounter with them. On both occasions the mother appeared to be so comfortable with our tenders that she would intentionally stay close to the small boats and allow her calf to rise gently to the surface to breathe only a few meters from our excited guests, patiently waiting at the surface, cameras in hand. The calf would come to the surface every three or four minutes while the mother rested below and when she came up she would move on a few body lengths before settling down again at about fifty feet.  In this way we were able to have the rare and treasured experience of sharing in the intimate bond between a mother whale and her calf while they rest in preparation for their 3000 mile migration north.

On the last day of this week’s charter the winds picked up and we braved choppy seas in search of one more special encounter, and we were not disappointed. We were rewarded with an unforgettable experience, another fantastic mother and calf encounter this time with a male escort in tow. Apparently unimpressed by the efforts of the escort to prove his desirability as a suitable mate, the mother, who appeared only focused on raising her baby, stayed with our tender and snorkelers for a short while before moving and leaving the escort to his striking display of lob tailing around our tender of stunned guests.  Not only did we get to see the whales in the water but also enjoyed spectacular surface activity from the escort.

Amongst all this Humpback action we again had the opportunity, for the second week in a row, to swim with Atlantic spotted dolphins. This time the pod was even bigger, at around thirty individuals clicking and buzzing all around us. Being in the water with these playful creatures is such a different experience than the tranquility and peacefulness of being in the water with the whales and it really does top off an already fantastic 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:

www.coastalstudies.org/aquaticadventures

LIKE us on Facebook
FOLLOW us on Twitter
Learn more about Aquatic Adventures here.

Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures