Swimming with humpback whales, 2004 & 2007

Published: November 24th 2010
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mother whale and calfmother whale and calfmother whale and calf

Mother whale with calf
Another one of my blogs discusses the excitement of cage diving with great white sharks. Swimming with humpback whales is just as interesting, but for different reasons. Adult humpbacks typically range between 40 and 50 feet in length. The first time you see them up close underwater, the size is overwhelming. It is hard to forget such an encounter.

Two places where you can swim with whales are Silver Banks (off of the Dominican Republic) and Tonga. I've done both of them. While the Tonga trip can be land based, the Dominican Republic trip requires you to live on a boat for a few days. The actual encounters I had with the whales in both places where very similar. One difference between the whales in both places is that the whales in the South Pacific have a white underbelly.

People usually go to the Silver Banks to see the whales. This is a place where the mother whales and their calves spend a great deal of time. Males are there too. It's always better to see the females with calves because they are more likely to stay in one place. When you find a mother and calf together resting, you can often have an encounter that lasts 30 minutes or longer.

During this type of encounter, you are snorkeling on the surface of the ocean. Every few minutes the calf comes up to breathe. When you find the right place to float, the calf can easily come within a couple feet of you without you swimming towards it. When the mother comes up to breathe, she often passes extremely close to you. In fact, in Tonga, one accidentally collided with me. The whale kind of felt like a car tire! These whales are gentle and won't hurt you.

When you are out of the water watching from a small zodiac boat, you can see breaching, fluke slapping, and other whale activity. This activity is not very strenuous because you are just floating softly on the water. You do not need to be an expert swimmer.

Some people regard this as the ultimate snorkeling experience. It might very well be. People have had more intimate encounters with dolphins, but a whale is just so massive. There is nothing like it.

Swimming with humpback whales...a truly surreal experience!

Enjoy your travels,


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