Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W8

March 11 – March 18, 2017

Week Eight of our 27th Season  

Our eighth week out on the Silver Bank got off to a great start with lots of surface activity and pairs of mothers and calves everywhere! At this point in the season there are thousands of humpbacks still here in the calving and breeding grounds, adults still looking to mate and the new crop of 2017 calves growing rapidly into boisterous young acrobats. Even before leaving the mother ship on the first day we were treated to a show of fin slapping and breaching just a short distance off our stern and as we headed out on the tenders we could see whales at the surface all around. As well as the thrill and exhilaration of breaching adults and calves and more fin slapping, we also hoped to encounter calmer, gentler giants more suitable for a “soft in-water encounter”. Sure enough, that first morning out on the Bank, all our guests on both Aquatic Adventures tenders had the opportunity to get into the water with the humpbacks! For all the guests except one repeat visitor this was a first, a bucket list item checked and something that certainly not that many people can say they have done. These first in-water encounters were so very special in their own unique ways, one with a mother, calf and escort and one with a pair of sleeping adults. Your first in-water encounter with a humpback whale is without doubt a moving and memorable experience especially when you consider what a rare privilege it is to meet with such a huge mammal in such a natural and positive way.

Photo Credit: Elmer Doty

Photo Credit: Elmer Doty

Photo Credit: Elmer Doty

Photo Credit: Elmer Doty

As the week went on we saw more and more surface activity, especially from the many mother and calf sets we encountered. One morning we enjoyed impressive shows of breaching from the fast growing calves and their mothers too. Unlike their pod dwelling relatives, humpback whales are not particularly social creatures so with so many whales in one area that morning they did tend to keep moving around. This provided some great top-side photographic opportunities but not necessarily ideal encounters for getting in the water. However in the afternoon we saw another mother, calf pair and this time things were very different. We found the relaxed mama and baby in amongst the coral heads and stayed with them as they slowly maneuvered around the mighty pinnacles and out into more open water. It didn’t take long to gain the mother’s confidence and with her and her calf so at ease we were able to enter the water and observe them from only a few feet away. Mother rested below while the young calf rose to the surface every three to four minutes to breathe. Each time the mother whale gently rose to the surface herself she would stay there for several minutes, logging and taking breaths while the baby rolled and lolled over her head in a very affectionate behavior known as the “nose push”.  We called over our other tender and each group of guests took turns being with the whales. The encounter went on for over an hour and a half and at first the baby whale was quite shy, staying on the other side of its mother but he soon found his confidence, coming a little closer to our excited snorkelers with each breath. The young whale even rolled onto his back and opened up his mouth, taking in water and extending his ventral pleats!  Who could say if he was practicing a feeding technique? Or just having fun! After that the calf began lob tailing and we got out of the water, leaving the mom and baby to go on their way.

During lunch the next day we spotted some whales, a mother, calf and escort, only thirty feet from the mother ship. The whales appeared to be hanging around so on an impulse we decided to cut the lunch break short and find out if they would settle for us. Mothers with calves are often accompanied by escorts and even though the female most likely has no interest in mating while she has a calf to look after, the males will stick around, for a while at least, in the hope that she will. This female managed to shake off the unwanted attentions of the escort and as we had hoped she would, she and her calf settled down to rest. Not only did this generous pair allow us to enter the water with them but it turned out to be the very same mother and calf from the previous day!  Coincidence? Or could it be that, in some way, this whale sought our company?  Who can say, but either way, we were overjoyed to have the opportunity to spend more time with her and her cute little boy. This time the conditions could not have been more perfect. Calm water, beautiful visibility, a coral backdrop and two beautiful humpback whales snoozing in the afternoon sun. For more than three hours the mother and calf rested in a sleepy state, sometimes shallow with babe rolling around on mom’s back and sometimes both logging at the surface, eyes shut tight, sleeping, completely unaffected by our presence. With encounters like this we are reminded just how lucky we are to be allowed to enter into the humpback’s domain and spend time with these remarkable creatures.

Mother, CalfMother, Calf Rolling

If to be in the water with humpback whales was on the bucket list then for sure to hear a singing whale must also be up there and some of our lucky guests this week got to check that one too! More often than not, singing whales have been found to be lone males, (although interestingly on a couple of occasions we have seen them accompanied by a mother and calf) so when we spotted a single blow we had our fingers crossed. Sure enough as the scout slipped into the water they came up straight away with a big smile and the announcement of “we have a singer!”. All the guests on the tender excitedly but stealthily entered the water and were able to hear and feel the enigmatic tones of these mysterious mammals. This encounter may have only been a couple of minutes long but to be able to say you have been in the water floating over a singing humpback whale is a very special and rare thing.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we had the opportunity to swim with North Atlantic spotted dolphins, only our second sighting of the season! The pod of twenty or so darted and buzzed around our swimmers and the tender for about ten minutes. This offered our guests the chance to let go and express their excitement with whoops and whistles, in a stark contrast to the peaceful and awe inspiring encounters with the graceful giants of the Silver Bank.  After a week of such incredible, extended encounters with mothers and calves these curious and playful dolphins really were the icing on the cake!!

Dolphins

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! 

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

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W7

March 4 – March 11, 2017

Week Seven of our 27th Season  

For our seventh week of the season here on the Silver Bank we were very happy to be joined by familiar faces with over half the group being repeat guests. For many, both returning and first timers, their journey here to the Silver Bank could be compared to the North Atlantic humpback’s annual migration as they were visiting from the east coast of America and could have quite possibly seen some of the very same whales in their feeding grounds. Our visitors who had already seen the whales feeding in the cold northern waters were excited to have the opportunity to get up close and personal and see them under the water, truly in the whales’ domain. Sure enough our generous and curious giants here in the Silver Bank did not disappoint.


After a frustratingly windy start to the week, the elements finally blew in our favor and we ended up having a wonderful rest of the week out with the whales. As soon as we left the mother ship one sunny blustery morning we were rewarded with the sight of two adult whales displaying their flukes and heading under the waves for a nap. We took the opportunity to slip into the water and watch from above as the male and female rested below. This relaxed couple slept for many breathing cycles, each time rising and passing close by our on looking snorkelers, to surface and take a few breaths before returning to their slumber just a couple of body lengths away. After the guests on one of our Aquatic Adventures tenders had spent some time with the sleepy pair, we then switched out and our other tender of excited snorkelers entered the water to experience, for most of them, their first ever underwater sighting of a humpback whale. And for one lucky individual this trip gave them their first ever sighting of any whale! What a way to start! The female stayed below while the male would encircle her and our tender on the look out for any possible challengers and during one of these “circling the wagon” as we call it, our snorkelers in the water were treated to an impressive and surprising sight; he was flaunting his penis!! That’s definitely not something we see every day!! We got to spend most of the morning, over three hours, with these relaxed whales.


Meanwhile in another area of the Silver Bank, the other tender was experiencing more close encounters of the whale kind! We spotted a female with an escort and two challenging males. The female seemed quite interested in our tender and circled round several times gently fin slapping while the males sorted out their differences! We can’t tell exactly what goes on under the water in situations like these but from what we saw at the surface it certainly appeared that the original escort managed to see off the two challengers without too much effort and the pair carried on their way. Shortly after this encounter we came across another pair of adults and the female was again quite curious. While the male kept his distance the female held herself vertical in the water with just the tips of her fluke breaking the surface only a few feet from the tender. Our snorkelers were able to slip into the water for a close up view of this elegant whale as she held her intriguing pose for a few minutes before moving away.


That afternoon we were very fortunate to encounter a mother whale with her young calf. The pair seemed to be enjoying the calmer seas with the mother resting at the surface while the baby played around her, lying belly up on mom’s head with its little pectoral fins outstretched soaking up the sunshine. When the mother dropped below the surface for a twenty minute snooze we entered the water and quietly approached. We watched as the baby rose to the surface every three to four minutes and took a few breaths over mother’s head before returning below and resting under the mother’s chin.


What makes these trips out to the Silver Bank so very special is the fact that we get to see these beautiful, intelligent and curious giants in their own domain. And in the domain of wild animals Mother Nature is in control so we appreciate every day that we can spend out on the water. In the hope of making up for the time we lost at the beginning of the week due to the windy weather we offered our guests an extra morning out on the tenders and the opportunity for some more time with the whales. Sure enough, Mother Nature smiled upon us giving us calm seas, warm tropical sunshine and a final whale encounter better than we ever could have hoped for!

Photo Credit: John King

Photo Credit: John King

During our extra morning there were mothers and calves at every turn however it must have been exercise time for the calves as they all seemed to be busy traversing the Bank and honing their new found breaching skills! In the last hour we found a mother, calf and escort resting in an area of the Silver Bank where there are hundreds of coral pinnacles. We were so grateful when the trio decided to settle in this sheltered area allowing our guests the unique opportunity to see humpback whales in beautiful clear shallow waters amidst a back drop of coral heads and sandy patches. The mother and escort stayed shallow while the calf swam and played around the adult whales and close by our excited snorkelers. They were settled long enough for us to be able to share the encounter with our other tender, so with each group taking their turn, everyone had the chance to enter the water for this stunning encounter. The lively little calf definitely stole the show and after twenty minutes or so, with a sudden burst of energy she took off away from the adults and our guests and did a full spinning head breach! As the mother moved on after the youngster with the escort in tow we headed back to the mother ship and started on our transit back to the Dominican Republic. On our way back we saw plenty of surface activity from the whales, breaching and lob tailing and fin slapping and even a pod of spinner dolphins! It really was a fantastic morning and a perfect end to our seventh week here on the Silver Bank.

Photo Credit: John Granata

Photo Credit: John Granata

Photo Credit: John Granata

Photo Credit: John Granata

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! 

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

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W6

February 25  – March 4, 2017

Week Six of our 27th Season  

As we enter mid season here on the Silver Bank, North Atlantic humpback whales are still coming down to the warm Caribbean waters of the Dominican Republic. The females that came here to give birth are now spending more and more time exercising and training their energetic and precocious young. Every day of this sixth week of the season we saw several sets of mothers and calves, some calm, allowing us to have treasured in-water encounters and some active, giving us unforgettable shows of surface activity.

Right from the get go, on our first afternoon we saw the blows of two whales, the full and puffy cloud of condensation shot ten feet into the sky of a mother alongside the distinctive little baby puff of her young calf. As we tentatively approached, both baby and mother did a full spinning head breach and then the rambunctious little whale calf continued to breach over and over again giving our new guests the show of a lifetime within their first few minutes out on the tenders. Why a humpback breaches has always been very much speculation and theory however in a situation like this it certainly looks as if the mother is demonstrating the maneuver to her growing babe and the calf is practicing again and again! It also looks pretty fun!   It wasn’t long before the young calf needed a bit of a break and while the mother slowly swam and logged at the surface, the baby rolled and flopped adorably over its mother’s head in a behavior known as the nose push. When the mother dropped below the surface to rest the calf tucked itself under her chin. At that point we took the opportunity for our guide and guests to slip into the water just in time to see the youngster come up for one breath before they both moved on a few body lengths away. That first afternoon we were with the same mother and calf pair for over three hours and during that time she attracted two different escorts. The mother was only interested in nursing and training her calf and showed little interest in the males that would swim close by and circle the pair, sometimes positioning themselves between the mother and our tender. In between rest stops on mom’s nose the baby continued to breach over and over and over. We went on to see lots of surface activity from more pairs of mothers and calves making for a fantastic first day!

The next morning we were again rewarded with another mother and calf encounter. This time there was no escort in tow and the relaxed mother allowed our lucky snorkelers to enter the water several times. The pair was resting in an area of the Silver Bank protected from the elements by many coral pinnacles making a beautiful backdrop for the intimate encounter as the sun shone on the turquoise water. In between the “soft in-water” sessions we looked on from the tender while mother and babe enjoyed the sunshine, baby gently flapping around at the surface and over mom’s nose. We were with this generous mother and playful calf most of the morning and all our guests on both Aquatic Adventures tenders had the chance to be in the water with them.

This week we were also fortunate to have our first “in-water” encounter with off shore Atlantic spotted dolphins! The day started out with yet another mother and calf sighting but we soon realized that they were not going to settle as four adult whales came through the area – two challengers in pursuit of a female and escort. As they passed by we noticed the dolphins heading towards our tender. Swimming with dolphins is so much fun and such a different experience to being with whales. Rather than calm, quiet, tranquil encounters with gentle giants, it’s fast paced, exhilarating and playful! The dozen or so dolphins were attracted to the sound of the engines, bow riding and circling the tender but once the people got in the water the dolphins swam around and dived back and forth with our snorkelers for twenty minutes or so. Definitely a fun way to exercise!! While we were in the water with the dolphins the four adult humpbacks from earlier cruised by below us and carried on off to another area of the bank! In the water with dolphins and humpback whales!! Not many people can say they’ve done that!!

With barely enough time to dry off we next encountered two adult humpbacks sleeping together. The female would stay down for approximately twenty four minutes while the male would nap for a shorter time rising every so often to do perimeter checks for challenging males in the area. As the female rose from her slumber each time she would turn towards us and spread her pectoral fins, oh so gracefully.   We were in the water with this sleepy pair for two breathing cycles and after the first ascent the couple actually circled around and returned to swim by our lucky snorkelers twice before moving on a few body lengths.

During this baby boom week we witnessed plenty of surface activity, far on the horizon and close up. Whether it was the young calves honing their skills or the mothers attempting to control their rapidly growing babies or the males displaying their prowess and worthiness to father the next generation, the result was a spectacular demonstration of breaching repertoire from these ‘acrobats of the sea’.

Photo Credit: Sheila Jenson

Photo Credit: Sheila Jenson

On Wednesday we were again in the water with mothers and calves. However one encounter with humpbacks is very different to the next and these two were like night and day. In the morning the calf was rambunctious and frisky, making wide circles far from her mother and giving our snorkelers exciting close-up views. In the afternoon the pace calmed and we had a forty five minute long and peaceful in-water encounter with a mother and young calf as the mother rested below and babe rose every couple of minutes before returning to rest under mom’s chin. This kind of experience is a real treat as it gives you time to really soak up the tranquil atmosphere and contemplate just how unique a place this really is.

On the last day of this charter, after, yes you guessed it, another mother and calf encounter first thing in the morning, the afternoon brought us the opportunity to experience something completely different.  Humpback calves will stay with their mothers for up to four months here in the breeding and calving grounds and after traveling back to the northern feeding grounds together they will stay a total of about eleven months before they begin to fend for themselves. Once the young whales reach sexual maturity at around four years of age they will return to the same breeding grounds but that’s not to say that they won’t come down a couple of years early to see how it’s all done! That afternoon we came across a single sleepy juvenile female, possibly just two or three years old. Size is not a reliable measure of age. Like humans, humpbacks can be small or big no matter how old they are, however we could assume she was young as it is rare to see a female without an escort if she is sexually mature. This sleeping beauty also appeared to still be perfecting her buoyancy skills as every time she swam down to nap she would swim on a body length or two and then slowly rise again to the surface and float there for a few minutes while taking breaths. Up, down, up, down, the pretty young whale continued in this way for over an hour completely at ease with the on looking snorkelers. If this were not entertainment enough we could also hear whale song the whole time we were in the water and it was getting steadily louder and louder. We couldn’t help but wonder if this sleeping beauty was drawn to the sound and sure enough not more than ten minutes after leaving the immature female we located the singer. For the third time this season all our incredibly lucky guests got to experience not only the 2017 humpback number one tune in person, but thanks to the keen ear of Denise (Aquatic Adventures tender captain and whale guide of the Silver Bank of ten years), we were able to locate the lone singer and look down on him from above as his melody vibrated through our bodies.

Photo Credit: Jodi Axel

Photo Credit: Jodi Axel

Photo Credit: Jodi Axel

Photo Credit: Jodi Axel

Photo Credit: Sheila Jenson

Photo Credit: Sheila Jenson

With the song of the Silver Bank still in our heads and our hearts, we headed back to the mother ship to watch the sunset and look back over another fantastic week with the whales.

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! 

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 

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W5

February 18 – February 25, 2017

Week Five of our 27th Season  

Photo Credit: Christine Olson

What a fantastic start to our fifth week here on the Silver Bank, the largest calving and breeding grounds for the North Atlantic humpback whales in the Caribbean. On our first afternoon out on the water we were encouraged to see plenty of blows and breaches out on the horizon and before long we glimpsed the dorsal of a whale silently slip under the surface just a few hundred feet from our tender. As we waited patiently for the lone whale to resurface we started to notice some very faint squeaks and whoops and realized we were listening to a singer! Humpback whales have the widest frequency range of any marine animal and their song can carry for miles underwater so it is not surprising that as we came close we could hear it above water too. This one-man-traveling-band however was swimming while he was singing and we were unable to pin point his position and get into the water.  The next set of whales we found were a mother and calf that we, the crew, recognized from two weeks previously because of some distinctive scarring on the mother’s front dorsal. We hoped that this relaxed mother would remember us and honor us and our new guests with a view of her beautiful baby once again. We observed the mother logging at the surface for a while with her baby playing around her and resting affectionately over her head before they both dived down to rest. At this point our scout slipped into the water to find out if she would tolerate a few spectators and luckily she seemed totally comfortable with our on looking snorkelers. While mama napped below babe came to the surface to breathe, staying more or less over it’s mother’s head and spent several minutes playing at the surface providing our enchanted guests with (for most of them) their first very special close up underwater view of a humpback whale. This wonderful encounter might have gone on for much longer if it hadn’t been for a pair of adult whales that passed close by and caused the mama and baby to move on… so yes, believe it or not, sometimes it is possible to have too many whales!!!

Photo Credit: Christine Olson

Photo Credit: Christine Olson

Photo Credit: John Pierce

The next morning all our guests had the chance to be in the water with the whales. We came across a sleeping pair of adults, a female with an escort. They would stay down for around sixteen minutes often sleeping in what appeared to be an affectionate pose, nose to nose and when they rose to the surface to breathe our lucky guests were treated to an up close view as the whales cruised by before settling down again a few body lengths away. Both tenders rotated to be in the water with the pair and everyone had a chance to see these mighty beasts in their sleepy slumber state for four or five breathing cycles, more than an hour.

Photo Credit: Christine Olson

Photo Credit: John Pierce

That afternoon the action picked up considerably! As soon as we left the mother ship after lunch we saw a blow not far away. We approached and waited and only a few seconds later, BAM! A full spinning head breach less than a hundred feet from our little boat! And then another, and another!! The two adult whales that we had seen that very morning had woken up with a burst of energy! The spinning head breach is what humpback whales get their reputation as the “acrobats of the sea” for. They will haul almost all of their body out of the water (with really very little “run-up” needed), throw out their fifteen foot long pectoral fins to create the spin and slam their forty five tons down onto the water surface, creating a massive splash! After maybe five or six of these spinning head breaches they moved on to chin breaches. These take less energy but create a tremendous noise. And finally both whales did a couple of tail breaches too! After this excitement the couple calmed down and continued on their way, leaving our guests and crew aboard the tender awe struck with this impressive show and the photographers in the group overjoyed! What a performance!

As the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up we headed back to the mother ship for a hot shower and happy hour, content with our day on the water. However the whales had other plans and shortly after tying up the tenders we spotted three adult whales at the bow. The charismatic trio, almost certainly a female with an escort and challenger, entertained us for more than an hour with a beautiful ballet of spy hops, twirling and rolling around our mooring balls. It is remarkable to see such majestic giants, maneuvering so gracefully and showing such interest in our boat and on looking passengers. Once again we were stunned to see such a relaxed group of adult whales and felt extremely privileged that they had chosen to play and explore around our ship! As the sun set and the whales moved on we were left with a profound sense of love and gratitude for our giant friends here on the Silver Bank.

Our penultimate day of this week was again spectacular! We started out with a mother, calf and escort only five minutes after leaving in the tender. At first all was calm and tranquil and we entered the water for a short time to see the baby tentatively rise to the surface and take a breath. The mother and escort came up a short while after and moved on a few body lengths. We then watched from the tender as the young calf rolled and played around it’s mother’s head while the escort made a big circle around the couple – a perimeter check for any incoming challengers. Our attention returned to the mom and calf while the babe did what is undoubtedly the cutest behavior of all – the nose push. This very intimate action is thought to be done directly after birth when the mother assists the calf to take her first breath. However when we see this behavior reenacted well after birth up until  the calf is at least a few weeks old we can be sure that it is a comforting and bonding experience for both the young whale and new mother. It was after this that we noticed the escort had returned and his behavior had changed. He was moving faster and blowing bubble streams. Two challengers had arrived. Our Aquatic Adventures tender stayed with the five whales as they picked up the pace and the escort fended off the challengers. When males are fighting over a female with young, even though it can get very violent between the males, it is rare that either mother or calf is harmed. This mother and calf began to travel quite fast and the baby took advantage of it’s mother’s slipstream, spending time on her back to conserve energy. After a while the challenging males moved away from the mom and calf and we did too to give them their space and time to calm down after the rowdiness!

We didn’t have to wait long before our next encounter! Straight away we found two adults close to our mother ship, the Turks and Caicos Explorer II. We soon realized that this was the same female that was showing great interest in us, our tenders and our mother ship from earlier in the week and quite possibly from the previous week as well! Whether it was the hum of the generator or the purr of our four stroke engines or just the excited squeals of our snorkelers, something was drawing this curious whale to us and we were happy to have the opportunity to enter the water and see her again. The female danced, slowing turning, arching her back and stretching out her pectoral fins, displaying her underside. At the surface she logged and rolled and gently swished her fluke. Just feet below the snorkelers she opened her mouth wide extending her ventral pleats and a few times she released air from her blow holes creating a stillness at the surface just like scuba diver’s bubbles. We can only speculate what unusual behaviors like this represent but the more time we spend with these mysterious animals the more we can hope to understand them and learn from them. This inquisitive female spent more than an hour circling the mother ship and spy hopping only feet away from the back deck where we threw out a line from the stern so the snorkelers from each of our tenders could take turns to float and watch in awe. For our first time guests this indescribable experience really helped to give perspective, seeing these huge animals so close and so completely at ease in their domain. For returning guests, for some of whom this was their eighth time to the Silver Bank, it really brought home the sensation that these whales really are individuals with different personalities and characters and that they do have a genuine interest in the friendly humans that come to visit.  During all of this the male escort was doing big perimeter checks around the female and the boat, occasionally cruising by and eventually managed to lure the female away to rest. We located them again a short distance from the mother ship and each group got in the water one more time to observe them sleeping before they headed off to another part of the Bank.  Whether these two whales mated or not we will never know but we will certainly be keeping our eyes peeled for this intriguing young female over the next few weeks.

Looking back over the last five days we had some incredible and unique encounters that more than made up for one day of bad weather. Everyone including our repeat guests went away with wonderful memories and photos and plans to return to see our majestic giants of the Silver Bank once again.

Photo Credit: John Pierce

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! 

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

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W4

February 11 – February 18, 2017

Week Four of our 27th Season  

After a windy start that unfortunately blew out our first day on the Silver Bank, Mother Nature repaid us with some absolutely perfect whale watching conditions. With flat calm seas, beautiful Dominican sunshine and just a hint of a cooling breeze on day two we could see the whales’ blows from miles away, but what we hoped for was something a little more up close and personal, and we certainly got that, making up for the day we lost! After only a very short time of scanning the horizon we were rewarded with a pair of adult humpbacks that came right up to our tender and floated at the surface to check us out only a few feet from the stern of our boat. As is usually the case in this kind of situation, the female was most inquisitive and proceeded to circle our tender while her male escort hung around close by. The curious couple was so relaxed that we were able to have our first “soft in-water” encounter of the week, meaning that our lucky guests were able to float at the surface and see the whales in their domain in a meeting of mutually curious mammals.  Staying close to the tender the snorkelers watched in wonder as the female whale hung just under the surface, nose pointed towards the tender, taking in the sights and vibrations of her human observers for several minutes.  We were still very close to our mother ship, the Turks and Caicos Explorer II, when we found these whales, so much so that after a while longer of checking out our tender and guests the pair then moved just a few hundred feet away and circled the mother ship several times, giving our cook and purser a very special encounter as well! While this was going on we called over our other tender and sure enough they circled that boat too, many times and so all our guests were able to be in the water with these gentle giants as they peacefully investigated us and our vessels. Overall we spent more than three hours with this fascinating and generous couple of whales!

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Ken Greenwood

Photo Credit: Ken Greenwood

Photo Credit: Anne O'Herron

Photo Credit: Anne O’Herron

That afternoon we had another very special encounter, this time with a mother humpback and her calf. The North Atlantic humpback whales are here in the Silver Bank exclusively to breed and give birth and they will not feed until they return to the nutrient rich northern waters. While a mother whale nurses her calf she may lose up to a third of her body fat before she can feed again, so they really need their rest. We stayed with this mother and babe for a while and after gaining her confidence she allowed us to enter the water. While she rested below, our snorkelers floated overhead and watched as the young calf came to the surface to breathe every three to four minutes. At first the baby was quite shy but curiosity soon got the better of the youngster and with each ascent the little circle above it’s mother’s head got larger and larger, giving our lucky guests a wonderful up close view.

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Of course these new calves need exercise too and later in the week we came across a mother and much more active calf, this time with an escort. The mother humpbacks go back into estrus within thirty days after giving birth, however with a calf to nurse and strengthen up and a long journey north still to make, it is extremely unlikely that she would add the extra stress of getting pregnant again so soon. Despite this it’s not uncommon to see a mom and babe with a male in tow, as he will hope to mate with her regardless. The escort will stay for a few days and if the female does not show any interest he will leave to find a more promising mate. In this case the three whales were traveling together and resting was the last thing on the calf’s mind. This bouncy baby had boundless energy and we were treated to some spectacular surface activity. The young calf had obviously only recently discovered the joys of breaching and like most children when they find out they can do something fun, they do it over and over and over again! The babe thrilled us with a continuous display of spinning head breaches, chin breaches and tail breaches for more than half an hour and we counted nearly fifty! This tremendously entertaining show was experienced by one of our tenders early one afternoon and luckily our other tender encountered the same set of whales later that very same afternoon. Unbelievably the calf still had plenty of energy and gave these guests yet another show of it’s strength breaching again, over and over. For sure this calf would have slept well that night, and as the sun began to set over the Silver Bank we left the trio to return to our mother ship after another beautiful day with the whales.

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Ken Greenwood

Photo Credit: Ken Greenwood

This week was another extended charter and on our last morning we again had beautiful sunshine and mirror calm seas, and most importantly more wonderful whale encounters! In less than four hours that morning we heard a singing whale, got in the water with sleeping whales and came across a rowdy group! Our guests this week had already had the chance to hear the whales with the hydrophone but it is always such a special treat to locate a singing whale and feel the vibration in your chest as you listen in the water. The sleeping whales allowed our guests to have one last opportunity to get in the water and say their farewells in person, looking down on the resting pair only fifty feet below. We stayed in the water with the whales for two breathing cycles; as they slowly rose to the surface they would swim by our snorkelers and the second time the female took a few breaths and circled our guests before heading back down to sleep again.

The icing on the cake this week was a brief but very exciting bout of surface activity from a rowdy group of just three whales, a female with an escort and a challenger. We first spotted them as the female was fin slapping at the surface and as the males jostled to be next to her, fighting for the position of escort they gave us a great show of tail breaches and slashes. You can really appreciate the size of these powerful beasts as they plow though the water raising their dorsals high up before diving back down into the fight. If the escort sees that another male has managed to get close to the female he can push him away with a maneuver called an S-curve. He will throw out his fifteen foot long pectoral fins to “slam on the brakes”, raise his head out of the water and swoop down to one side to replace the challenger and maintaining position as her potential mate. With all this excitement only feet away from our tender we had some fantastic photographic opportunities and it made for a great finale for the week!

Photo Credit: Pippa Swannell

Photo Credit: Ken Greenwood

Photo Credit: Ken Greenwood

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Don Coons

Photo Credit: Anne O'Herron

Photo Credit: Anne O’Herron

Want to hear an excerpt of this year’s song from a North Atlantic humpback whale? Recorded 1/30/17 on the Silver Bank.

 

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! 

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

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W3

February 4 – February 11, 2017

Week Three of our 27th Season  

As we arrived at the Silver Bank for week three of the breeding and calving season we saw plenty of surface activity from the mother ship and felt confident it was going to be a great week. And we were not disappointed, with tranquil sleeping whales, fast paced rowdy groups and everything in between!

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

On the second day we found three adult whales together, a female and two males, an escort and challenger. The trio were very calm, resting and slowly traveling, however when we came closer the female turned to us and appeared to be more interested in our tender than her suitors.  She would circle the tender, rolling on her back, spreading her pectoral fins and gently slapping at the surface with her fins and fluke. We were treated to some close up views of her tubercles (modified hair follicles all over her head) as she slowly raised the tip of her head out of the water in a behavior called spy hopping. Spy hopping is most likely done to gather information via a whisker-like hair in each tubercle and this curious, seemingly playful whale was as interested in us as we were in her.  At one point she even opened her mouth and showed us her baleen! The two males were also very calm, allowing our guests and guides on both Aquatic Adventures’ tenders to rotate in and out of the water and observe the trio as they gracefully maneuvered around each other and our boats. It was almost as if the female enjoyed the noise or vibration of our engines because she returned to circle one of the tenders over and over again resulting in a fascinating and intimate encounter for more than three hours. The escort and challenger stayed close by and rather than pushing the female away and battling for her attention they seemed content to wait for her as she indulged in the happy cries of our guests. Often when a female humpback is seen with more than one male whale, the males are competing to be chosen as a mate resulting in a high energy rowdy group that’s great for surface activity photo opportunities but not for an in-water encounter. So our guests this week were very lucky to experience such a relaxed set of whales, and have the rare chance to enter the water with them.

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

As the season goes on we are seeing more of this kind of flirtatious behavior between males and females as they choose their mates. Later in the week we came across another group of adult whales where the calm female was clearly controlling the tempo of the encounter. This time the female was initially with just an escort but they were soon joined by a challenger, then another and another, and another! Even though the males showed interest in the female they weren’t in a rowdy mood and we were able to get in the water once again. This time our snorkelers floated above the female as she rested under our tender with her tail up and head down and watched as the males made perimeter checks, circling her and our guests at the surface. To be in the water with this many fully grown humpback whales really was an awe-inspiring experience and for an incredible two and a half hours each tender took a turn to be with the whales. Then the female seemed to rouse and began fin slapping and moving faster, spurring the males to display to her their less sensitive side and show her who would be the strongest mate. More rowdy behavior ensued with bubble streams, trumpet blows and tail slashing. We certainly got out of the water but the excitement didn’t end there and we enjoyed the surface activity for a while longer.

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Not only did we have these fascinating encounters with adult whales we also saw several pairs of mothers and calves this week. We saw surface activity like breaching and lob tailing from both mother and calf as the new mama exercises and trains her baby and on three occasions we were very fortunate to gain the confidence of the mother and get into the water with them. One sunny morning we found a mother with her very young babe resting in a shallow area of the Silver Bank where there are many coral pinnacles, making for a beautiful back drop. While a mother humpback whale sleeps she only needs to breathe every twenty minutes or so, however for a calf this young it’s every two to three minutes. We had a wonderful view from the surface as the baby would peak out from under mom’s chin, resting there while they napped because they still can’t really control their buoyancy. Then baby would gently bob to the surface for a breath. As the calves grow they become more confident but this little boy was quite shy, staying over mom’s head making what we call the “little circle thing” before returning to tuck back under mom once again.

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

This week was one of our extended weeks on the Silver Bank and on the last day we were treated to beautiful calm seas and sunshine and another wonderful mother and calf encounter. This time the pair was not sleeping, they were slowly traveling at the surface and after observing them for a little while we slipped into the water and watched as they very leisurely cruised by for several minutes. The calf was playing alongside the mother and sometimes would lay on top of her head. It truly is a rare and precious thing for a mother whale to allow people to share in the tender bond between her and her calf and we are so happy when our guests leave with these very special memories.

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Looking back over the week we really have seen an incredible variety of behaviors and feel privileged to have been able to see the whales in their natural habitat both above and below the waves. Thank you humpback whales of the Silver Bank!

Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Juvenile brown boobies and frigate birds on the wreck of the Polyxeni | Photo Credit: Tammy McCorkle

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

Photo Credit: Nancy Gaudino

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! 

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

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W2

January 28 – February 4, 2017

Week Two of our 27th Season  

As the season goes on, more and more North Atlantic humpback whales are arriving to the Silver Bank. The pregnant females come here to give birth to their calves and then nurse and exercise them until they are ready for the journey back north, whereas the males come here with only one thing on their minds, and that is to mate. So it was no surprise when our second week here on the Bank was kick started with some impressive rowdy group action!  A rowdy group, or surface active group as they are sometimes called, is composed of one female and at least two males competing to be her mate. The male that stays closest to the female is called the escort and in a rowdy group any number of challenging males could be vying for that position. On the morning of the first full day out on our tenders we encountered a female with an escort and one challenger. This is technically a rowdy group, however for the female it was apparently not enough excitement as she proceeded to slap her pectoral fins on the surface of the water in a manner that certainly seemed provocative, in the hope of attracting more males to the area. Sure enough, after a few minutes more challengers arrived and soon the surface activity heated up. Now with five fully grown forty to fifty ton male whales competing for the prized position of escort, our on looking guests were treated to quite the show of testosterone as the whales slashed their tails, lob tailed and slapped their fins. In battles like this, whales are rarely seriously injured but it can get very violent and it was possible to see fresh wounds on the white pectoral fins and the tubercles on the head and chin were rubbed raw and bloody by the animals slamming into each other under and above the water. We stayed with this high energy group for nearly two hours and meanwhile our other tender was enjoying a very different but equally special encounter only a mile away.

©Bruce Miller

©Bruce Miller

As we quietly approached a single whale that we had seen coming to the surface for a few breaths, we could just hear the distinctive whoop and squeak of whale song even above the water and over the sound of the engines and we were able to locate it by following the sound. Whale song can be heard with the use of a hydrophone all over the Silver Bank this time of year but finding the singers and getting into the water with them is another story entirely as they will often move around as they sing. Fortunately this whale was staying motionless, perfectly neutrally buoyant in the typical position of horizontal but with the head pointed downward, at a depth of about forty feet.  Our lucky snorkelers were able to slip into the water and see as well as hear the whale from the surface. It has been found that all the singing humpback whales in a given population will sing the same song during the mating and calving season and that song will partially change from year to year. The song is approximately twenty five minutes long, depending on the tempo of the singer and a whale may sing continuously for up to twenty four hours. Luckily this singing whale stayed in one area for several breathing and singing cycles, allowing us to call over the other tender so that all our guests could hear him. Many species of whales vocalize but only humpbacks are famous for their prolonged and complex series of whoops, moans and squeaks that make up their song. Even if you’ve heard a recording, nothing really prepares you for the sensation of hearing and feeling the sound as it vibrates through your body as you lie at the surface of the water over the head of a singer. Later that day we came across a second singer so even though singers themselves are not rare, to be in the water with them is an experience that really very few people in the world can say they have had. Despite several of the guests this week being return visitors to the Silver Bank, this very special experience was a life changing first for most of them.

Shortly after leaving the singer we were very fortunate to find two adult whales resting calmly just below the surface. When we looked closer we could see they were dancers, a male and female, and we watched as they swam around each other slowly in a beautiful ballet that we believe to be a prelude to mating. Our guests from both tenders were able to take turns entering the water and watching this graceful performance for an hour. The female, totally at ease with our presence, would pirouette around the male displaying her belly to us with her pectoral fins outstretched. It was clear that the escort had been though the wars somewhat as he showed many scars across his back, possibly old entanglement scars, and a shortened right pec fin. However this didn’t seem to make him any less attractive to this female! We tend to see more of this kind of courting behavior at the beginning of the season because there are more single females than towards the end. Once a female becomes pregnant she will not waste time before embarking on her return journey to the nutrient rich northern waters.

Even after these incredible encounters the excitement continued, as we also encountered several sets of mothers and calves, two of which swam together for a while with an escort. This was an unusual occurrence as we have observed that mothers tend to prefer to stay away from other mothers and calves. In this case the five whales swam along side each other and the calves even breached in close succession. But after a few minutes the escort encouraged one of the pairs to move away. We stayed with the other mom and babe and were treated to a spectacular show of lob tailing from the mother before they settled down and allowed us to enter the water with them. The mother rested down below and every few minutes the baby would surface, staying over the mother’s head giving our patient snorkelers an intimate insight into the gentle bond between mother and calf. On another occasion with a mother and calf we were able to rotate the guests from both tenders in the water with the whales while they rested calmly. After a few breathing cycles the baby decided to try out a breach, swimming about a hundred feet away from our snorkelers and heaving it’s relatively small (but still fourteen foot long) body mostly out of the water, landing on its back with a splash. After this the mother seemed to say “I’ll show you how to do it!” and took off up wind a few more hundred feet away from our guests in the water and did an impressive full body, spinning head breach! Wow! A spectacular finale to the encounter!


Photo Credit: Pippa Swannell

 

This week was a real mixed bag full of emotion and excitement. Not only did we have the thrilling topside action of breaching and rowdy groups but also the peace and calm of being in the water with mothers, calves and singers.

Just another extraordinary week on the Silver Bank!

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! 

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

Aquatic Adventures Whale Tales S27:W1

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.

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Photo Credit: Hugo Asberg

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!

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Photo Credit: Hugo Asberg

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Photo Credit: Hugo Asberg

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!

dscn0494-2

Photo Credit: Bruce Wayne

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.

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Photo Credit: Bruce Wayne

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!

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Photo Credit: Hugo Asberg

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! 

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 

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! 

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 

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