Air temperature: 78° - 82°F
Water temperature: 78°
Visibility: 50 feet
Captain – AMANDA SMITH
Engineer – ROBERT SMITH
Chef – AILSA KELLY
Video Pro – KELLY CURRINGTON
Photo Pro – SHEA MARKWELL
Driver/Guide – JUAN GUTIERREZ
Leesa & Rob, Sally & Kim, Sabine & Werner, Iain, Simon, Bill & Beth, Bill & Debbie, Carl & Rosemarie, Charles & Roy, Charlotte and Kristen
A slightly different week, this, with the beginning of the charter yet to begin but a crossing to be made to the Dominican Republic with our intrepid adventurers Leesa & Rob and Roy who joined us for our transfer, in preparation for our whale charters.
We set of early on Friday morning and enjoyed an uneventful crossing of fifteen hours to Puerto Plata and Ocean World Marina. There we completed our final preparations before our remaining guests joined us and we departed at midnight for the Silver Bank.
As soon as we entered the shallower waters of the Silver Bank we encountered the first of a variety of humpbacks; breaching, pec slapping and generally just being. Although they did not accompany us all the way in, we saw them the entire time we were cruising across the bank. As we entered the circle of coral heads in which we moor, three adults were moving between the three boats that were in the process of attaching the mooring; it being our first week in the Silver Bank.
As Captain and guests watched from the sundeck, crewmembers Rob and Shea entered the water to set up our mooring. The three adults appeared to be swimming away from the Aggressor when suddenly they changed direction and headed straight for the rock formation that supports our mooring. As Rob & Shea were working below they were surprised to see two of these gracious creatures watching them, seemingly curious as to what they were up to. They moved away and circled back before heading out into the bank system. Quite a start to the week!
We were to see these three whales later in the afternoon. One of these males had a very distinctive pattern on his flukes and this made it easy to recognise him again when he was part of a rowdy group later that same day. The patterns on the underside of a humpbacks flukes are very individual to each creature, in the same way that a fingerprint is to you or I.
We experienced some great encounters throughout the course of the week. The first in water encounter had a male and female curious as to our intention and whilst they did not stay still they circled the small group of snorkelers on the surface providing a fantastic opportunity to see these magnificent mammals in the water.
A mother and calf, later in the week was a much more settled affair. As the mother slept for up to ten minutes mid water, the calf would come to the surface and swim past the guests and beyond – quite some distance from the mother before returning and swimming back. We discovered very quickly that the mother was fine about the distance between her and the calf, until the calf swam behind crewmember Kelly. At that point the mother moved and tail lobbed, instantly returning the calf to her side, and then she settled back down to sleep and the encounter continued. We were very careful then to remain with the mother so that she could see us clearly and the calf delighted us with his antics.
It was a great week for rowdy groups. On more than one occasion we encountered a female being pursued by an escort and a variety of challengers; all male. As the female led the group a merry dance, the males were vying for the position of escort, with the chance that they would get to mate with the female. Pec slapping, tail lobbing, breaching and behaviour of a general rambunctious nature ensued. As the direction of the action changed we found ourselves the subject of bubble blowing as the males tried to disguise the position of the female, not entirely realising that we remained on the surface. This behaviour continued until we parted ways to make the trip back to the mother vessel, and I am sure persisted despite our absence.
Our final afternoon produced one of the highlights of the week. A mother, calf and playful escort appeared close to the chaseboat. We slid into the water and observed them swim closely beside the boat and move away. As we were preparing to return to the chaseboat, the cry came from the driver that the three were swimming back towards us. We waited as they approached and saw that the male was pushing the mother and calf back our way. As they swam, he would stop and spy hop in full view of all our guests and so it was a great opportunity to see the spy hop from in the water. The mother and calf soon settled to a slumber, with the calf returning to the surface every three minutes to breathe. At this point we were able to watch as this delightful creature floated gently to the surface, sometimes with Mum and sometimes alone. The escort in the meantime remained below both mother and calf, and followed them as they completed their breath cycles.
We left them as the light started to fail and returned to the Aggressor to prepare for our return trip to Puerto Plata.
An excellent first week with some great topside and in-water encounters. We can only wait to see what next week brings.