Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Whale Watching in the Dominican Republic

Humpback Whale Tale
Every winter, from mid-January through mid-March, humpback whales travel to the warm waters of the Caribbean for calving and mating. Upward of 5,000 whales find themselves right in Samaná Bay, in the northeastern part of the country. Across great distances, the male can be heard attracting his prospective mates with his call or seen with his impressive displays of virility through breaching and creative flipper- and tail-wagging. Whale watching excursions in Samaná Bay provide some of the most extraordinary visions of humpback activity. The Bay can be accessed by boat from a number of towns including Samaná, Sabana de la Mar, Punta Cana, and Las Galeras.

Wherever you choose as a starting point, be sure to go with a reputable tour company that follows all whale watching regulations such as:

         Minimize speed/"no wake" speed
         Avoid sudden turns
         Minimize noise
         Do not pursue, encircle, or come in between whales
         Approach animals from angles where they will not be taken by surprise
         Minimize number of boats at any one time/per day to reduce cumulative impact


One of the most dependable and reasonably priced outfitters is Whale Samaná, owned by Canadian Kim Beddall. An animal advocate and conservationist, Kim first arrived to the DR in 1983 and then made a career of her love for these majestic creatures. She conducts trips on 55' Custom Whale Watch Vessels with VHF radio and follows regulations to prevent interrupting mating patterns. If no whales make an appearance during the excursion, Kim will honor tickets for a future trip. Soft drinks, crackers, and anti-nausea medication (often necessary in the choppy waters outside Samaná Bay) included.
US$50 plus $3 Sanctuary fee, Children under 10: US$25; Jan 1- Feb 15 at 10:00 AM; Feb 16-Mar 9 at 9 AM and 1:30 PM;;

Sabana de la Mar

Whale watching season is the time to visit the natural grounds and water views of Ceyba Park in the Sabana de la Mar region. Eden Tours operates trips out of the park with stops at the area’s gorgeous natural attractions like Playa Esmeralda. Outside whale watching season, the park is still well worth a visit, as it hosts a refreshing set of swimming holes – one freshwater and two saltwater – to enjoy year round. There is also a restaurant in the park, though it’s not known to be well-stocked.
Park is on the Sabana de la Mar – Miches highway just outside Miches. For Eden Tours, contact Jumbo: 980-7903;;

Punta Cana

The possibilities offered at resorts in Punta Cana are endless, but during whale watching season, many resorts offer package tours. We encourage on outing like this to experience the country’s natural beauty outside of the resort. Check with your respective resort for schedules and prices.

Boca del Diablo in Las Galeras

An impressive blowhole located just before entering Las Galeras, this natural phenomenon is a worthwhile trek – especially during whale watching season, as it provides a rare land-based vantage point to catch these incredible mammals in action. Because Boca del Diablo is on the way to Playa El Frontón, it is a great addition to a day at the beach: It combines some decent hiking and a unique geological formation with a lazy day at one of the most isolated and lovely beaches in Samaná.
Getting there is a bit tricky as there are no signs and the walking trail is not well maintained. The smartest way to arrive is to befriend a local to guide you, or at least show you the entrance to the trail from the Samaná-Las Galeras highway. En route, you will pass through the community of La Cueva, where you can also stop for directions.