If our last trip (Cuba) was our most spontaneous trip evah (5 days!), this adventure was the opposite — more than two years in the planning. There are a few places in the world where humans can swim with humpback whales, and we traveled to one of them — the Silver Bank, 80 miles in the Atlantic Ocean north of Dominican Republic. Humpbacks travel from the north Atlantic down to the Silver Bank to spend the winter (January-April) to mate, and rear calves. View Bob’s video of this adventure, and scroll down for more of the story:
Only three boats are permitted to visit the Silver Bank with guests. This, combined with the short season, means that <800 people can visit the Silver Bank per year — about the same number that attempt to climb Everest every year. Hence the long wait. The trip was terrific — even beyond our expectations … and well worth the wait.
Humpbacks are called “gentle giants,” and it’s easy to see why. They are graceful and beautiful. We are only allowed in the water when they are at rest — no diving allowed, only passive snorkeling, and no interference with the whales. Our guides are knowledgable, and dedicated to the safety and health of the whales.
The above-water action is fantastic — tail flukes! Pectoral fin slapping! Breaching! Two whales breaching! Multiple whales slapping! Moms with babies! And the underwater experience is a level of awesome beyond that. The pectoral fins of north Atlantic humpbacks are white on both sides, making them easier to see when underwater.
Our most amazing encounter: we were floating above a mom with her calf. The calf, clearly curious and playful, slowly barrel-rolled a few times, then slowly swam straight toward us. His tail actually tapped Bob. The calf is enormous (14′ and 3,000 lbs. at birth), but so tiny when compared to his mom. It was a special moment, and I was delighted when he looked right in my eye. (Watch the special director’s cut video of this special encounter.)
Another amazing moment is when Bob recorded the 2019 song. North Atlantic humpback whales sing the same song every year … and we are told that Bob’s is the first recording of the 2019 song. We also listened to recordings of songs from 2017 and 2018, and they are indeed quite different!
These creatures are precious. We must take care of oceans and the creatures within. We saw and picked up several pieces of floating plastic … reduction of plastics — particularly single-use plastics — is so important for the health of our ecosystem.
We were aboard the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II — a live-aboard dive boat that is normally at Turks & Caicos (natch), and spends the 10 week humpback whale season at the Silver Bank. Captain Amanda (our first lady captain — yay!) and her terrific crew did an excellent job of taking care of us, caring for the whales, and maximizing our whale encounters. Highly recommend! There were 17 people on this trip (the boat can sleep 18), from Sweden, U.K., Australia, and U.S. Although diving is not allowed here, all 17 of us are scuba divers — possibly due to the way the trip is marketed? Diving skills are not needed, though one should be comfortable snorkeling in swells and rough water.
Was I singing “Baby whale doo doo doo doo doo” on this trip? You decide. But seriously, do make your plans far in advance. It is so totally worth it. — Diana
View our scuba diving adventures.