Humpback Whale Season – In case you’re looking for things to do in Turks and Caicos
Salt Cay is one of the very best spots in the Caribbean to go whale watching and experience the sheer majesty of these phenomenal beings known as humpback whales. Every year from February through April, the humpbacks migrate right through the Turks Head Passage and the Columbus Passage en route to the Silver Banks – a mating and nursery area north of the Dominican Republic. As they make the journey towards baby-makin’ time, you can witness the miraculous sight of these beautiful gentle giants.
Silver Banks is a 75-square mile shallow coral reef, an underwater plateau of limestone, that the whales have chosen to use for birthing and nursing (scientists believe) because of the coral head perimeter that provides protection from the ocean swells. In this calm and peaceful zone, it’s estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 humpback whales visit every year – making it the largest breeding and calving grounds in the world.
Although not all humpbacks make it to the nursery to give birth. Just 9 miles south of Salt Cay is Great Sand Cay – known as the “emergency room” for many expecticing humpback whale mothers who give birth here a bit early to cute little baby whale calves. It’s not uncommon for passengers in boat tours and onlookers on the beach to witness the special treat of these newborn creatures making their first splashes alongside mama.
The humpbacks can be spotted all over the Turks and Caicos Islands, even right off Grace Bay Beach, just beyond the reef. The males can be heard by scuba divers and snorkelers, singing their complex song that lasts 10-20 minutes (the exact reasons for which remain unknown but most likely they’re serenading their better half – or asserting dominance). A fascinating aspect is that all whales within a large area sing the same song, vibrating frequencies to indicate tribe membership, perhaps.
Humpbacks are a common sight for scuba divers, snorkelers, and fishermen, as they thrive within the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Whale watching trips run out of Grand Turk and Salt Cay during the season (February to April), with expert guides bringing you up just feet away from these majestic creatures. Watch in awe as the whales frequently breach, heaving two-thirds or more of their huge body out of the water and splashing down on their backs. Feel the sea spray from a tail slap just off the starboard side of your raft is an experience sure to leave some long-lasting memories.
Humpback whales are easily approachable and generally curious about objects in their environments, such as whale-watching boats, and “friendlies” often investigate the tour and stay under or near the boat for many minutes. As you’ll see, they’re real characters, each one possessing a distinct personality that you’ll have the chance to meet on a whale-watching tour – for one of the most magical things to do in Turks and Caicos.
Who Are These Whales?
These graceful giants are North Atlantic Humpback Whales, the long-haul truckers of the deep, migrating up to 25,000 km (16,000 mi) each year. They’re heading south, coming from as far away as Iceland and Greenland (where they feed in the polar waters), to breed and nurse their young in the tropical waters of the Silver Banks.
Energetic, vigorous, bubbly and inquisitive these majestic creatures regularly travel in loose-knit groups or pairs, often for a lifetime – up to 48 years. Men gather into competitive groups and fight for females, charging and parrying with each other. Females typically breed every two or three years with a gestation period of 11.5 months. FUN FACT: A whale penis is called a dork.
Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a moratorium was introduced in 1966. While stocks have since partially recovered, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution continue to impact the 80,000 humpbacks worldwide. We support whale-watching as ecotourism so that people can learn about these wonderful animals, gain a deep appreciation and respect, and send their own positive frequencies out through the world – much like the song of the humpback.
Whale Totem Meaning: “Are we using our vocal powers constructively? Are we being unmindful of what we say and how we say it? Are we hearing what is said beneath the words of others? Are we acting upon our inspirations? Are we ready to sing forth a new birth in our life?” In Coastal Native American tradition, whales are considered powerful, magickal beings, thought to be Record Keepers for the Earth. It is considered a sign of very good luck to see a whale.
Whale Dream Meaning: As the whale uses sonar to tune in to the surrounding environment, it can be a sign of perception and intuition – so use your intuition to tune in to the situations in your own life. This is a sign to connect with your instincts, your creative intuition, and your psychic perceptions. Whale has tremendous power and strength and yet is gentle and considered nonaggressive. You can access the inner strength within yourself and still be gentle and loving. Seeing a whale in your dream is a symbol reflective of the regenerative power of water to refresh your ideas, bring peace and healing, and smooth out the rough spots in life.