Whale watching in the Turks and Caicos is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. What makes them return over and over again to our waters, however? Today the Big Blue Collective takes a closer look at the unique phenomenon that is the humpback whale migration, and why it keeps bringing our biggest visitors back to our waters every year.
Is it really a ‘seasonal’ migration?
Yes, it is! The humpback whale migration is linked to the annual cycle of the seasons, and comes about as a key facet of the whale’s life cycle. We all want the very best for our children, and we would all like to live a good, healthy life- but at least humans don’t have to trek over 5000 kms each way to do it! This is the longest recorded migration for any animal on earth- and we’re so lucky to be a key part of it.
Despite their massive size, whales live on tiny little creatures such as krill and plankton. In fact, they can’t even use their mouths to consume anything larger! As you can imagine, this means they need a bountiful supply of food to snack on. Each whale will eat about 2500kg (roughly 5000 pounds) of food a day during the feeding season. The best place in the world to snack (if you’re a whale, that is) is the rich waters off the Antarctic coast during the summer months. When the waters chill in winter, however, these populations die off. Luckily for the whales, they use a lot of the food they eat to form a thick layer of fat (called ‘blubber’) so that they can use it to live on during the lean season. There’s nothing much worth hanging around the cold Antarctic waters for, however, once the food dries up- and it’s certainly not a nice place to have their babies.
Raising a family
The Pacific, and it’s warm, gentle waters, is the perfect place for whales to find a mate, rest, and raise their babies. That’s why we’re so very blessed with beautiful displays from the whales every year- eager males are looking for mates, so we get fantastic displays like breaching and tail slapping. All pod members are feeling rejuvenated and eager, and you’ll be able to see calves at play with their parents, too. It’s an overall happy mood among the pod members when they pass through our waters, and that jubilant vibe shows itself to us observers.
Why the TCI is perfect for whale watching
Why specifically the TCI, however? The world is, after all, a very big place, and 5000km of water is a lot of space! Blame it on quirky geography. You can spot whales at several points along their long route, depending on the time of year- Cape Town in South Africa is another example of a whale-watching destination. Only in the Turks and Caicos, however, is every pod that wants to pass squeezed into a relatively tiny area of the ocean.
We’ve mentioned how our gorgeous islands perch on a ‘shelf’ before. This ends relatively close to the shore, giving way to much deeper channels. That’s actually what gives us so many beautiful wall dive spots, too! While the shallow water won’t bug humans and their boats, it’s not perfect for a whale to squeeze through- and certainly not a whole pod!
So the passing pods have to use the channel between our two larger islands to get between their start point and destination, as there’s no real alternative. This means that each and every pod who’d normally have the whole ocean to swim in pass super close to land- and use the exact same stretch of water. Couple that with the overall playful attitude and the males’ mating displays, and you have a recipe for breathtaking sightings that just keep on coming.
So, can you guarantee whale sightings?
Not quite. These magnificent beasts are wild, in their natural habitat, and that’s nothing we can control. However, in the decades we’ve been working in the Turks and Caicos, we’ve never witnessed a bad whale season. The migration doesn’t happen in one solid block- it comes in waves as each familial pod passes through from their varied original locations. Flat seas and warm days are the best for play, so the key to a magnificent whale experience is being ready to get in the water at a moment’s notice. Hiring a private yacht during the season is a great way to ensure you get the whale experience of a lifetime.
We use the expert protocols of Phillip Shearer to ensure we keep all interactions with these magnificent mammals ethical and responsible, using the Silver Banks guidelines out of the Dominican Republic. So don’t expect that we chase whales down in boats, or interfere with their natural movement. Not only would this be highly unethical, it’s also not safe. Our gentler, positive approach lets viewers have unrushed, enjoyable encounters with no threat and no aggressive pursuit.
Imagine the gentle sounds of whalesong in the distance, the magnificent displays, and the intimate encounters possible when your guide understands these beautiful animals and their behaviour intimately. Even the locals have yet to tire of whale season, and you’ll hear excited whispers of sightings buzz around you wherever you go in the season.
Let these spectacular giants woo you and rejuvenate your spirit. We’ll begin to see the first whales passing through around Christmastime, with sightings intensifying through the early months of the New Year. Our whale experiences are inevitably popular, and places on the island fill quickly when we’re going into the season, so you may want to make sure you book quickly if you’re hoping to catch us this year.
Let the Big Blue Collective’s difference shine. Book with us for a spectacular season in the sun, and magnificent whale encounters that will touch your heart forever!