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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
February 2 – February 09 2019
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
Air temperature: 76° - 82° F
Water temperature: 78°F
Visibility: 40 - 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm/5mm full wetsuit & a windbreaker
Captain: Amanda Smith
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Chace Gaudreau
Video Pro: Ellen Myers
Photo Pro: Ben Phillips
Whale Guide: James Whittle
Bob & Diana, Rob, Guy, Craig, Ingvar & Meiying, Annika & Mats, Karl, Mats, Sandy, Suz, Kia, Valerie, Christine & Mike.
Our Snorkel Site
Sunday – Friday: Silver Bank, Dominican Republic
The eager new guests arrived at the boat all ready to go with much excitement and cameras at the ready. After settling down with some cheese and crackers and a refreshing rum punch we enjoyed the beginning of the week’s culinary delights with the first of many chef prepared dinners. Shortly before midnight we began the journey to the Silver Banks so we could make the most of our first day with the gentle giants. The guests looked onto what they would see for the week ahead from the Sundeck as the Captain navigated the semi exposed coral heads to reach our mooring destination. The curiosity of the whales got the better of them as they had to come up and see who the new people were and give them a good show with some powerful blasts from their blowholes breaking the surface, a few fin slaps and some rowdy males showing their size with some breaching.
Having spent the morning enjoying the humpbacks, swimming around the mooring areas, whilst the tenders were prepared for our forthcoming adventures. Great cries of delight were heard, as our ever-glorious friends, the humpbacks, impressed the on looking guests with just their presence.
The afternoon was quiet to start, but after a while we were joined with some exciting adult activity, which appeared to be the start of a valentine, with great languid movements, the humpbacks would circle around the vessel, giving us a great view of their amazing pectoral fins, glowing the colour of Larimar under the surface of the water. Not settled enough for us to get in, but a great taster of things to come.
This was the week that we were to experience in greater detail the humpback song for 2019, whilst the singers themselves were elusive we were able to get in the water and hear and feel the range of tones delivered by the lone male. He sang for us for a while and then proceeded to breach just a few yards away from the boat. Singing over!
By the middle of the week the guests knew the schedule and were ready and waiting for each opportunity to get onto the water. The calves were particularly playful with the mothers nice and calm resting below. We managed to have one of the best encounters with a mother and her calf during the morning excursion. The calf was very playful and seemed to be having fun interacting with both groups of snorkelers as we switched out and took turns playing with them. The mother would rest at around 30ft while the calf spiraled around and in between our groups. The mother would come up for air usually every 10-12 min while the calf would stay down for 3-4min at a time. When the calf swam too far for the mothers comfort she would come up for air and follow her calf to stay close before settling down again and letting her calf play with us. After around 3 hours of playing a group of rowdy males swam by and so the mother thought best to move her baby along to the next point along the bank and saying goodbye to us with a nice flap of her tail before heading down thus giving us the opportunity to head in for lunch. That afternoon we found 2 splashy males having fun at the surface
Escorts and challengers accompanied some of the mothers and calves this week. It seemed as though the mothers were at times seeking shelter from the tenders as they would turn toward us and remain within our shadow. On one particular topside encounter the escort became somewhat enamored of our little chase boat and whilst he followed the mother and calf he would come to rest for short period of time directly below us allowing us to peer below, with masks and snorkels on, from the tender, turning to look at us, allowing us to interact from our alternative sides of the surface. It was this day that guest Valerie taught other guests the art of snorkeling from the RHIB!
Finding a male and female whale with no calf was a treat as they were very playful together and had a good time in suddenly appearing beneath the boat and swimming around us before moving a bit further ahead and making us wait at the surface before surprising us again. We followed them around for most of the morning viewing their playfulness and enjoying the pectoral fin slaps and some incredible views of their tails before they disappeared for a short while. Following them around led us to 3 males putting on a brief show, unfortunately this show gave the new couple a chance to sneak off into the distance. We even managed to find the same playful calf and mother that we played with earlier in the week. We only made the connection after the mother showed us her scarring on the right side of her back in the brief moments she was at the surface. However she was not traveling with just her calf this time, she had found an escort. She was not used to the new company as she was not as restful and calm as before and would not let her calm stray more than 10ft from her. Each time the calf came up for a breath she would follow quickly behind while her escort would remain below them following along only coming up around 15min intervals. The adults were playful, which led to times when they need to rest and for that we were grateful. In one such in-water encounter we watched as they were suspended in repose fro up to ten minutes. As they rested, one adopted the classic sleeping pose of head down, the second slowly turning throughout the cycle, so that whilst we began at his rostrum we soon found ourselves toward his flukes. We repositioned and waited for their rise to the surface. For two interactions they slowly rose toward us, remained still at the surface as they breathed and then dropped back just a few yards away to repeat the behavior. On their last move toward the surface, the female so very slowly ascended, drew breath, turned toward us and presented her vented pleats and turned to swim away, whilst the male had swum behind us and proceeded to join the female cruising several yards beneath our floating forms. It was breathtaking.
Making it back to the boat in the afternoons the guests enjoyed many a cocktail and snack upon the sundeck soaking in the final rays of the Dominican sunsets. The hot tub was always overflowing with conversation and laughter as they devoured the afternoon treats.
Along the journey back to the mainland we viewed some of the great shot taken by the guests and talked about how the week had been so awe inspiring. Giving our chef the night off cooking duty some guests went their separate ways to enjoy a meal on island before returning to the comforts of the boat and relaxing before heading out in the morning. High hopes for the upcoming week!