If you have a bucket list of must-do activities in the Caribbean, add Whale watching in the Dominican Republic.
Below is a comprehensive guide to all the spectacular whale-watching locations and guided tours on the beautiful Island coastline.
Where To Whale Watch In The Dominican Republic
This fantastic island destination has three significant places to watch whales, especially the humpback.
You can visit the Samana Bay, Punta Balandra Conservatory, and Silver Banks in Puerto Plata.
The Humpback Whales at Samana Bay
Annually, hundreds of humpback whales migrate to the warmer waters along the Dominican Republic’s coastline.
This particular whale-watching season begins in mid-December and lasts up to March. The whales gather here primarily to mate, have and nurture their young ones before moving on.
It remains one of the spectacular events of the year, and you can see them at the Samana Bay Sanctuary.
The Samana Bay Sanctuary is on the northeastern side of the island. It is one of the renowned spots for humpback whale watching.
Best Time To See Whales At Samana In The Dominican Republic
The best time to watch humpback whales in Samana is between December to March every year.
Not only do you get to see mature humpbacks, but you will also have the rare opportunity to observe newborn calves.
However, their mothers watch them keenly and will swim around them in fierce protection.
If you visit at the beginning of the season, you will have the pleasure of watching the male humpbacks show off to potential mates.
They jump out of the water into the air while clapping their fins. Others slap their tails in an exciting show of prowess. Watching them lunge at each other and blow water in competition is exhilarating.
Apart from watching the young ones and the males courting dance, listen to their songs.
Tour guides use a hydrophone to let you listen in on the incredible sounds they make. Often, these sounds will alert you that one of them is about to leap out of the water.
Although they do not have live whales, you will see a massive real-life skeleton of a humpback discovered in the early 90s.
They charge 100 pesos per person to enter and are open daily from 9 to 11 am and 2 to 5 pm.
Boat Tours And Excursions To The Samana Bay Whale-Watching Sanctuary
Although numerous boat tours are available to Samana, choosing the right one is essential. One of the critical concerns is the strength and capacity of the boat.
The undercurrents in the Samana Bay area and water spray during the whale watching season are strong; hence, you must use a reliable ship. Avoid boats that seem crowded or need better maintenance for your safety.
Due to Samana’s whale protection laws, visitors must adhere to some strict rules. There is strict control of the number of boats and their speed during every visit.
Not only does it keep the whales calm, but it is also for your safety. Listen to your guide’s instructions and respect the Whale’s presence.
Among the numerous tours available, one of the oldest and most highly reviewed whale-watching excursions company is The Tour Whales Samana.
The team has a thorough knowledge of the whale-watching business, and you can easily make a booking on their website.
The knowledgeable guide will happily answer any questions, share the rules, and take you to the best viewing spots.
How To Get To Samana Bay
Depending on the city you are in, most whale-watching tour companies include transport to Samana in their packages.
However, you can travel solo to Samana using a Metro bus or Caribe Tours from any city in the Dominican Republic.
If you only plan a day trip, check when the last public transport leaves Samana, as it tends to be early.
Tour Duration And Charges
Most tickets for a whale-watching tour at Samana start from $90 per person for about 3 hours, inclusive of lunch.
Fun excursions take approximately 8 hours, including visits to nearby islands and beautiful beach spots like Bacardi Island.
However, these long tours cost about $130 per person and can be private.
The protected marine park charges an additional $5 per person.
Each tour company is unique and offers different activities besides Whale watching, so do thorough research before settling on one.
In addition, boat tours are only available during the Whale watching season, so ensure you book your holiday on time.
What To Expect On A Whale-Watching Tour To Samana Bay
As the most popular whale-watching spot, I recommend you spend a few days here as we did.
At the peak of the whale season, boats leave the busy harbor every day for this exciting activity.
Only a maximum of three boats are allowed into the protected area at any given time, but they boats are large enough to accommodate over 50 people.
As a result, it can get quite crowded on the boats, although this means you get to meet people from different parts of the world.
Another advantage is that the boats are large enough to reduce seasickness and have upper decks for comfortable seating and viewing.
Once we went aboard, we headed up to the top deck immediately. Our guide told us to do so as it is the best seat on the boat and gets filled up rather quickly.
Once you start spotting the whales, the guides will share some fun facts about the whales.
They will tell you why they migrate to this part of the Atlantic Ocean, what they eat, and the reason for their humps.
As you learn all this, another staff will pass around a few bitings, and soft drinks, ensuring you are not hungry on holiday.
While exclaiming in wonder and excitement, remember to take out your camera and capture these magnificent sea beasts. I took hundreds of photos and couldn’t stop clicking away.
The feeling of being this close to them is remarkable.
Nothing beats the adrenaline rush from watching them jump up and down the water’s surface. It is truly an unforgettable experience.
Our tour ended with a fun cruise around Bacardi Island, where we took more breathtaking photographs.
Since only six tour boats can access Samana Bay daily, I recommend you book in advance. The boats sail twice from the harbor; only three can go in at a time.
On land Whale watching at the Punta Balandra Conservatory
Suppose you experience anxiety in the ocean or hate boats, you can still Whale watch in the Dominican Republic while on land.
The Punta Balandra whale observatory is about 9 miles from Samana along the highway to Las Galeras.
It was opened in 2011 and offers a different yet equally exciting perspective of the striking humpback whales.
As they move towards Samana, you will see hundreds of them at the start of the whale-watching season.
To get to the Punta Balandra Observatory, you can take a bus or drive from any city in the Dominican Republic.
drive may take several hours, depending on where you are coming from, so plan accordingly.
Swim with Whales at Silver Bank in Puerto Plata
Boat trips are also available to the Silver Bank, a shallow mammal protection bay in Puerto Plata. Most female humpback whales come to give birth to their young ones here.
Although it can get treacherous for boats and ships to navigate this area, visitors can snorkel and swim with the whales.
Yes, swimming with whales is possible in the Dominican Republic, but only in this shallow area.
However, you will have to pay a pretty penny for this experience. The standard price for a boat excursion to Silver Bank, including snorkeling, starts at $4,000 per person.
For this price, besides swimming with the whales, you get several nights aboard the ship, food, and drinks for seven days.
Additional Tips for Whale watching in the Dominican Republic
Besides choosing the upper deck on the boat tour for the best views, here are a few more useful tips.
Your comfort and peace of mind will ensure you have the best whale-watching time in the Dominican Republic.
Avoid booking a tour on the last day of your trip
The weather in the Dominican Republic can sometimes drastically change. On such bad days, the tour companies reschedule boat rides to Samana Bay.
If you make a last-minute booking, you may miss the opportunity to see these magnificent mammals.
Seasickness is a possibility
Since the bay is in deep water, it can get pretty rough. Take a pill to prevent seasickness, and stay hydrated before your tour.
If that doesn’t work for you, try to remain calm. Breathe in and out, and focus on your destination.
Bring lots of sunblock creams
The sun in the Caribbean can get scorching hot, especially in the open waters, so remember to protect your skin.
If you sit on the upper deck of the tour boat, ensure you also bring a sunhat for extra protection.
Besides having the best time of your life, there is much to learn when you go whale-watching in the Dominican Republic.
Our detailed guide will get you on the adventure of a lifetime. Sit back, watch as you leave the coastline behind, and look out for the unfamiliar spout of a whale.
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