Whale watching in the TCI is one of the most spectacular sights you could imagine. The Caribbean whale migration is an annual event that will thrill even the most jaded heart, bringing unparalleled views and experiences with these gentle giants. Today the Big Blue Collective takes a closer look at the best time to see whales in the Caribbean waters of the Turks and Caicos, as well as why these unique mammals love the area so much.
Is whale watching in the TCI really annual and predictable?
Imagine the moment. You’re exploring a gorgeous dive site, snorkelling a reef, or enjoying some time on the deck of a boat. Suddenly, a huge plume of water erupts in the near distance, closely followed by one of the most majestic sights on earth- a whale breaching, erupting from the crystal clear water playfully. Perhaps you can hear the unique, yearning song of the rest of its pod. Heart doubtless in your throat, you watch as it playfully slaps the ocean before sinking gracefully back out of sight.
It’s one of the most incomparable experiences you will ever have, and thanks to the annual humpback whale migration through the Caribbean, it’s one that blesses the Turks and Caicos every year. These magnificent beasts set off every year on a massive trek across 5000 km of water, taking themselves between their regular feeding grounds and the warmer waters where they prefer to calve and play with their young ones. It’s the world’s longest migration of any mammal, and it happens almost by clockwork.
Why do the whales come to the TCI?
Humpback whales, you see, prefer to feed near Antarctica in summer, taking advantage of rich layers of plankton and krill, their preferred foods. As the waters grow colder in winter, however, these populations die off. It’s not strictly a problem for the whales, who are able to store vast amounts of ‘food’ in the form of thick layers of fat, called blubber. It’s no place to raise a family, however, and these unique creatures have an amazing bond with their pods. Instead of suffering through the dwindling food supplies, they set out on their epic journey to the Pacific and its warmer, friendlier waters. This makes their time here the very best time to see whales in the Caribbean. Here they will spend the season breeding, calving and playing in the kind, warm environment before heading back for another summer’s feed.
Right about the time they hit the TCI, a unique geographical quirk ensures the experience of a lifetime for lucky observers. The area between the islands, plus the shelf on which they lie, creates a natural funnel, forcing them to pass through a relatively tiny area of ocean to reach their ultimate destination. This makes for the chance of unparalleled sightings. Coinciding with mating season, the whales are unusually active, with males making good use of impressive tactics like tail-slapping and breaching to attract a mate.
When is the best time for whale spotting in the Caribbean?
The migration of whales to the Caribbean typically brings them to Turks and Caicos shores as we cusp into December. The Big Blue Collective, busy as we are in the offshore waters, are often among the very first to spot them in late December, a true Christmas treat! The first two to three months of the New Year will then be packed with exciting sightings and encounters; with snorkelers, divers and other busy folks all eagerly sharing where the latest activity has been spotted. It’s a season where it pays to watch the water carefully.
Is whale watching in the TCI guaranteed?
Of course, as with all things in the natural world, you can never guarantee anything. As the whales migrate to the Caribbean in their own family pods rather than en masse, it’s not unusual to have flurries of activity interspersed with periods of quiet until the next pod passes. If you’ve come specifically for whale watching in the TCI, the key is to be ready to hit the water the second word comes in. The beaches at Provo, and the calm seas of Salt Cay, both make great spots to watch out for them coming in. Your best chances of a sighting will always occur on sunny days with flat seas, when they- and you- will be in the mood to play in high spirits.
While they are a huge draw at this time of year, it’s important to remember that the whales are enigmatic, wild animals. We at the Big Blue Collective draw on the expertise of Philip Shearer, with decades of responsible, ethical whale experience under his belt as part of the Aggressor fleet under the renowned Captain van der Walt. Using the Silver Banks guidelines of the Dominican Republic, we are proud to operate around our massive cousins with sensitivity and respect, a tactic that has built us a wealth of unique, intimate encounters that do no harm and leave no marks.
No two experiences of the whale migration in the Caribbean are ever the same. With a guide who understands them, the magic goes a little deeper. Gentle handling allows for closer, friendlier encounters than aggressive pursuit ever will. We’ve had a host of utterly unique whale encounters over our two decades of operation, with visitors left in awe of these mighty giants at play. However your particular encounter shapes up, we can guarantee you will leave your whale watching experience in the TCI forever changed by the memory. Even the lucky locals who live here year round are never able to resist the lure of them gracing our shores.
Whale watching in the TCI is one of the best ways to experience the annual whale migration to the Caribbean, and the best time to see whales here is undoubtedly now, while December fades gracefully into the New Year. Why not get in touch with the Big Blue Collective today, and allow us to help you maximise your chance of a unique whale encounter of your own?