All you need to know about the famous TCI whale migration

30th June 2019 11:10 am

Whale watching. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences of many visitors’ lives. Witnessing these massive beasts at play helps you reconnect with your soul and remember what truly matters in life. Whale watching in the Caribbean is famous for its predictability, driven partly by the migration of humpbacks through this area every year. Today, the Big Blue Collective brings you everything you could ever want to know about these gentle giants and their time in the TCI.

Why do whales visit the area annually?

It seems odd to think that there’s anything like a ‘predictable’ whale sighting. Of course, it isn’t quite a matter of clockwork! Nature always has an element of unpredictability to it. However, the whale migration in the TCI is a known and regular phenomenon. You will definitely have a chance to go whale watching annually within the territory, even if we are never quite sure exactly when and where.

Why are we so sure that the whales will visit each and every year, though? It comes down to the nature of the whale. Humpback whales make a (truly massive) annual trek every year. It becomes necessary for them, as they have reliable, steady feeding grounds in cooler waters. These waters aren’t quite so hospitable for new-born calves, however. This means that they choose to cross almost 5000 km of water each year from those feeding grounds up to more clement waters to calve and frolic with their young. When the little ones are more fit for it, they head back to their feeding grounds. This cycle happens annually, giving us (as one of their waypoints) an unforgettable chance to be part of their journey.

Where are those feeding grounds? Why don’t we see them there?

These massive, gentle giants feed on plankton and krill, almost invisible creatures that populate the cold waters near Antarctica. They’ll spend their summers there, eating and putting on critical fat layers for their long journey. People in the area certainly do get some whale watching opportunities- but not many of us hang around cold Antarctic waters ourselves! When the waters start getting particularly icy as winter approaches, they start thinking more of the family and head back to warmer climes.

The Pacific is the perfect place for calving. Remember, whales have intense, unimaginable bonds with their family ‘packs’, known as ‘pods’. Rather than birthing in the cold waters with a dwindling food supply, they head to the Pacific and better climes. The sheer length of this journey means whale watching opportunities pop up worldwide, from the shores of South Africa’s Cape to right here in the TCI. So what makes whale watching in the TCI so different?

Experience whale watching in the Caribbean- a once in a lifetime experience

To get to these family-friendly waters, there’s a lot of ocean to cross! Nowhere else in the world has quite the geography we do in the TCI, however. While whale pods can be very split up in other seas, choosing their own route together over miles of ocean, here they have only a tiny area they can cross. Our islands (and the shelf below them) make a natural ‘channel’ in the waters, forcing the pods closer together. This means almost every humpback pod will have to squeeze through this (relatively) narrow stretch of sea. Add to that their imperative to be in the right place at the right time, and you have the makings of a magical experience.

Whale watching in the Caribbean is a truly exceptional experience. Throughout the ‘whale season’ here in the TCI, we get treated to truly spectacular displays. As this is also mating season, the whales are more active on the surface than usual, too. We see plenty of showing-off from males looking for a mate. Imagine tail-slapping and full-body breaches, all in our very own stretch of water! It may be designed to impress female whales, but it’s magic for us who get to watch it at distance, too.

When is the best time for whale watching in the Caribbean?

Now you know why we have a predictable whale season, it’s time to get to the details. When will our aquatic cousins be rolling through the crystal-clear, shallow waters of the TCI? We typically begin to see them in late December, making the perfect Christmas present for locals and visitors alike. The Big Blue Collective are very active in the water, between our boat charters, diving teams and watersport classes, so we’re often privileged to be among the first to spot them. As the New Year brings fresh hope to everyone’s minds, the sightings pick up too, and it can sometimes seem like a flood for the first few months of the year! Everywhere you go you’ll hear excited divers, snorkelers and visitors talking about where and when they last spotted a whale. If you happen to be spending the festive season on the islands, keep on eye on the water and that could well be you with the bragging rights!

So, you guarantee whale sightings?

These majestic, awe-inspiring creatures don’t take bookings! As powerful conquerors of the natural world, they come and go as they please, not on a human schedule. Remember that each pod, or family group, travels together (just like you and your loved ones). They don’t actually ever meet up intentionally as a larger group. This makes for spurts of frantic whale watching activity, then a few calm days, and then more activity.

This means this is the season to travel smart, not hard. If you’ve come here for the whale watching, be ready to interrupt your plans and get on the water when the sightings come in. They’re busily trying to reach the kind, warm waters of the Pacific for their young ones, so they won’t wait around for you! But the Big Blue Collective are always ready to help you out.

Fortunately, it’s not arduous to wait for the whales to come to you here in the TCI. Play in the calm seas (and chill vibe) of Salt Cay, or spend a day lounging on the warm sands in Provo. Sunny days with calm seas always seem to attract the most sightings, with the whales enjoying the clement conditions as much as you will be.

What is a whale watching experience like with the Big Blue Collective?

While we can’t tell you an exact date it will happen, take it from us- when it does, it’s magic. It’s well worth a touch of uncertainty. Believing strongly in ethical tourism, we at the Big Blue Collective aim for responsible, ethical whale experiences using the Silver Banks guidelines from the Dominican Republic. We see better, richer whale experiences with a gentle approach- aggressive pursuit just drives them to dive away from the human nuisance.

No two whale experiences will ever be the same, and with our informed guides on hand, yours will be wholly unique and special. We’ve had some spectacular encounters over the years, and each whale migration brings even more. It’s an experience that never gets old or loses its magic. Even the locals throng to watch our annual visitors as they pass!

Are you keen to experience whale watching in the Caribbean for yourself? Why not get in touch with the Big Blue Collective today, and harness our in-depth knowledge of the whale migration to help ensure you the best experience possible?


Filed under: Whale Watching

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