January 21 – January 28, 2017
Week One of our 27th Season
This year Aquatic Adventures embarks on our 27th year on the Silver Bank, the North Atlantic humpback whale calving and breeding grounds in the Caribbean. The whales we have come here to see travel thousands of miles from the frozen far Northeast coast of the United States and Canada and even Norway for mating and giving birth to their young in these warm tropical waters.
It is estimated that throughout the months of January through April between five and seven thousand whales visit the Silver Bank, a 33 square mile area of shallow plateau approximately 90 nautical miles north east of the Dominican Republic, and some have most certainly already arrived.
For this first charter of the season we were very lucky to have with us a wonderful group of people from all over the world that travel together incorporating healing meditation and heart energy sharing into their marine mammal interactions and experiences. This warm and enthusiastic attitude towards the whole experience, combined with some beautiful Caribbean sunshine and (mostly) calm seas, resulted in us all, guests and crew alike, having a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful first week!
The whales too seemed to be happy and comfortable with us offering our snorkelers the rare and privileged opportunity to enter the water with them and observe them in their domain. After some far off sightings of flukes and blows on the horizon our first close-up encounter was with a mother and calf, accompanied by a third whale, an adult male known as the escort. With the hope of mating, this escort will stay close to his chosen female in order to fend off other potential mates. This first encounter was brief but some of our keener guests were able to slip into the water and see the whales underwater for the first time as the trio slowly swam by. The next day we found a couple of adult whales that again allowed us to approach gently and by timing their breathing cycles we could surmise that they were most likely sleeping. These sleeping whales made for an ideal in-water encounter for our guests as they would stay down for twenty minutes or so between surfacing, allowing our snorkelers to simply lie at the surface and look down on these magnificent fifty foot animals only forty feet below in their most peaceful state. Each time the graceful giants stirred and slowly raised to the surface the female would turn and expose her ventral pleats and underbelly to our lucky guests looking on from only a few feet away. In this way all the guests on both Aquatic Adventures tenders were able to take it in turns to be in the water with the whales for over two hours!
Later in the week we were very fortunate to encounter another mother with a young calf, still showing the pale grey color of newborns. This early in the season this calf could well have been one of the first calves of 2017 and if the mother or calf had shown any dislike of our approaching tender we would have immediately let them be. However despite the calf’s newness to this world both mother and calf appeared at ease. This pair was again accompanied by an escort who when we first approached was displaying his prowess at the surface with fin slapping and tail breaching, but with no other males close by for competition he was giving the mother plenty of space and opportunity to exercise her new calf, remaining close by but not crowding the mum and babe. Before the escort eventually moved on with the mother and calf, we observed the three whales both above and below the water for nearly forty-five minutes and at one point the mother even allowed the youngster to swim close and investigate our excited snorkelers.
With our very special whale encounters and the wonderful energy from our group of animal lovers it made for a perfect first week. We are always grateful for any interactions we have with the majestic humpbacks of the Silver Bank and look forward to another spectacular season!
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:
Thanks to all who have generously donated!
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Written by: Pippa Swannell, Aquatic Adventures
Designed by: Heather Reser, Aquatic Adventures