I remember reading about it long time ago, a murky memory at best, buried like the Titanic among other more important things like PIN numbers, birthdays and . But when I came across a story in Islands Magazine, the recognition breached the cobwebs. What am I talking about? Snorkeling with Humpback Whales! Yep, you read that right. You (yes, you!) can snorkel with Humpback Whales on the Silver Bank. Now, don’t get me wrong — this adventure does require some basic swimming skills, a heart set of sea legs (or stock in dramamine) and an overall fearlessness of ocean life, but if you have those things licked, snorkeling with the whales is an epic adventure!
Turns out, the warm waters of the Silver Bank, off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, provide a warm, wintery haven for the entire North Atlantic humpback whale population to birth their calves and mate again for next season. Indeed, this marine mammal sanctuary is one of only three places in the world where we humans can swim among them! Of course, the experience is tightly controlled by the government, permitting only three ships to visit the Silver Bank each season. Since these are relatively small, live aboard, dive-type boats, this limits the total number to 560 people spread over four months — January through April.
I booked my trip through Conscious Breath Adventures and they far exceeded my expectations! Outstanding food, knowledgeable, friendly and attentive staff, and an intimate group of 20 like-minded adventurers made this an incredible journey.
For seven nights, we lived aboard the 138-foot floating luxury hotel christened the M/V Sundancer II, and each morning, like a bunch of giddy school kids, we geared up and boarded smaller boats with our naturalist guide in the lead. Together we searched for the elusive, calm, resting humpback whale… And, boy did we find them!! Out twice a day, every day (with a short break for a sumptuous lunch) we found ourselves immersed in a bright liquid blue heaven while magnificent whales (real, live whales!!) slowly approached us, gazing at us with wonder and curiosity. They chirped and flirted and sang long, heartfelt songs… the latter vibrating the entire being (mind, body and spirit) of those close enough to hear. Genuinely awed by the power and grace of some of the most intelligent mammals on earth…. it’s a life-changing experience.
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- Where is the Silver Bank region? The Silver Bank lies in the Caribbean sea, between the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos. It’s about an 80 mile journey from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
- When it the best time to go? From late January until the end of March. Visability is usually 50-60ft.
- Silver Bank Marine Life Only the Humpback whales. But you will never be bored. Whale trips are snorkeling only, no scuba diving. There’s not many fish.
- Guides Swimming with the Humpback Whales is highly regulated endeavor, so trips are limited and guides are highly vetted. Ours, Conscious Breath Adventures, specializes in week-long liveaboard cruises.
Note: the week after our trip, a whale shark decided to make the Sundancer II his home for a couple of days. Everyone on board got to spend some time in the water with this immense, gentle giant. Footage is available on consciousbreathadventures.com