If you’ve ever imagined diving in the open sea with majestic whales, you know it’s something truly special. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that offers breathtaking sights, enlightening insights, and inspiring stories. I had a fantastic opportunity to dive with Humpback whales in the Dominican Republic’s little-known sanctuary “Silver Bank” – a place so pristine and untouched it is one of the last frontiers on earth for whale conservation efforts.
Arriving in the Dominican Republic is an exciting adventure! After arriving at the airport, there are plenty of taxis that can bring you to your hotel, where you can relax, unpack, and get ready for all the activities waiting. The beach of Port for my live aboard boat is “Cofressi,” a small beach in Puerto Plata. Once settled in, you can choose to go out for dinner or browse around shops close to the beach. After a full day of sightseeing, hit the beach and capture some breathtaking views, followed by delicious local food before calling it a night.
The Turks & Caicos Aggressor II is a 119ft (36m) mono-hulled Caribbean live-aboard that runs 7-night cruises, out of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
-A few sets of cloths
-Extra camera body (one for the housing and one to have out to capture whales breaching out of the water
-Sports shield/rain cover for camera and lens (the boat splashes quite a bit, so keeping your camera and lens dry is essential).
It takes 8 hours to reach the silver banks from Puerto Plata. As we were pulling in, we saw whales breaching and jumping everywhere. After breakfast the 20 of us broke up into two groups of ten and boarded smaller tinder boats that we used to find the whales to swim with.
The challenging thing is, to swim with humpback whales, you have to find them when they are not moving. Which makes sense, given how much faster whales are than humans. We had to find these large whales while they were sleeping.
HOW DOES ONE FIND A SLEEPING WHALE???
Whales sleep like all other mammals, but they still have to breathe air, meaning they have to surface to do so. While humpback whales sleep, half of their brain shuts off while the other half is still active. Humpback whales do not automatically breathe like human beings; they have to take a conscious breath each time they take in air. While we are in the tinder boats we are trying to spot the spout of air that is forced out of the whales blowhole, which looks like mist coming our of the water. Once that happens we start a timer. An adult Humpback whale can hold their breath up to 28 minuets, and a young calf up to four minuets. Ounce we can see two spouts of air in the same location, we generally assume we may have a sleeping whale under the surface. We all then try to enter the water as quietly as possible as to not wake or startle the whale below.
Unfortunately, on our trip, this was a rare occurrence to line up all of these things. We were able to find whales and get in the water with them three out of the five days, and we spent an hour and a half in the water with them during the week. Don’t get me wrong, the time in the water with them was amazing; I just wish it had been more.
The food aboard the Aggressor was AMAZING. The chef on board (Antonio) had me eating and enjoying dishes I would have never ordered at a restaurant. I was very impressed and never went hungry.
Overall, the trip to Dominican Republic was a wonderful experience. Every bit of the journey lived up to its expectations and exceeded them in terms of whale sightings, food and people. The Aggressor’s professionally trained crew provided an amazing help in organizing the tours and making sure that everyone had fun. Although I wasn’t able to swim with the whales as much as I would have liked, it was still well worth every penny for what I got out of it. From now on, if anyone ever asks me about my favorite places to see whales, the Dominican Republic will be at the top of my list!