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Caribbean Cruise Day 5: Whale & Dolphin Watching in Dominica
#Dominica is an oceanic rainforest, which means the island is lush and green and all around gorgeous. Our priority was a #whalewatching tour, where I was hoping to see #active whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. Turns out, this is one of the best days I've ever had.
Dominica, known as the “Nature Island”, was a natural beauty that dazzled us with some incredible displays of wildlife. The view of Roseau, Dominica was magnificent from our balcony as well as our table near the buffet as the Emerald Princess docked.
Dominica has nine active volcanoes, and the last major eruption was in 1270 AD. As our tour guide put it, some people believe that they are overdue for a volcanic eruption. Thankfully, there are no immediate fears that a volcano will erupt in Dominica. Amongst the lush green mountains in Dominica were brightly colored homes and buildings dotting the hills. Everything there was so lush and green. I love Dominica because it has been mostly untouched by man in comparison to the other Caribbean islands, and the people who live there take great pride in preserving their natural environment. I felt so lucky to be in such a beautiful place.
It was another early morning for Justin and I, although we got to sleep in until 7:30am today – an hour later than the other days! Our morning was pretty typical of the ones we had been enjoying on the ship – getting dressed, spraying ourselves with sunscreen, and eating breakfast at the buffet. For our tour today, we were going on a Whale and Dolphin Watching excursion! We booked the excursion through the cruise ship. When I heard that there was the chance to go whale and dolphin watching in Dominica, I was a little bit skeptical at first. I was unsure if we would see anything at all. In the months preceding the vacation, I read the book, Death at Seaworld by David Kirby, which described the various problems with keeping whales in captivity (I highly recommend checking it out!). Furthermore, we both watched the documentary Blackfish on CNN when it was played as part of their documentary series over the summer. Both the book and the movie opened my eyes. Whales deserve to live in their natural oceanic habitat without being kept in captivity at Seaworld. After viewing whales in their natural environment in Blackfish, I had a great desire to see them with my own eyes. I decided that the risk of perhaps not being able to view a whale in Dominica was worth the potential reward, and we booked the excursion.
We met our tour group down at the pier for 9:20 and I was super excited. We walked down the street to a small pier where the double-decker boat was waiting for us. When Justin and I boarded the boat, we saw a couple who we had originally met back on the shuttle bus from our hotel in Fort Lauderdale. We also met a very sweet couple who happen to have other friends that they cruise regularly with from our hometown! Also, another really nice man gave us some lens cloth wipes for our camera after he noticed that it might be a little bit dirty. Another man gave me his standing spot on the boat so I could get some better photographs. The people that we met on this tour were all so amazing! Maybe it was because we were all animal or nature lovers and we were just so thrilled to be on this trip!
Wildlife sightings were not guaranteed for this trip as the tour operators can’t make the whales and dolphins appear! However, this was not a problem. If you are in Dominica and you love ocean wildlife, do yourself a favor and book a whale watching tour. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
We had amazing luck on this trip pertaining to the amount of whales and dolphins that we watched. It was incredible! From the start, our tour guides were super informative and were experts in their knowledge about whales in the region. When we started to sail, the guides told us to look for a water spout shooting out from the water.
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This meant that a whale was at the surface, shooting water out through their blow hole. Nearly immediately, we saw a water spout off in the distance and our boat sped towards it. In the meantime, we saw a group of dolphins that swam and jumped near our boat. Our guides were able to tell us the breeds of the animals that we saw, which included Spotted Dolphins and Fraser Dolphins. We ended up leaving the spot with the dolphins to check out the whale that was off in the distance.
The sight of the whales was breathtaking. We were able to get so close to them and they really didn’t mind our boat being nearby. I suppose they were used to boats traveling through this area. We could see the whale’s whole back and fin sticking out of the water, rising up and down. The tour guides knew not only which breed of whale it was, but more than often the age, the gender, and even which whale it was after seeing the same whales time and time again. When the whale was ready to dive back underwater completely, we were able to see the tail fin rise up into the air and back down into the ocean. We were in total awe.
Sperm whales can hold their breath underwater for more than 90 minutes before having to come back up to the surface. They can dive incredible depths – up to 8000 feet below the surface to feed at the seafloor. Our tour guides informed us that this same whale would return in approximately 45 minutes, so we should search for more whales in the meantime.
It seemed like within moments of viewing one whale and watching it dive below, we were able to spot another one. The area surrounding Dominica was brimming with wildlife, and we weren’t even very far from shore. Whales can be viewed in Dominica year round, although I have heard that the best months for viewing are January – March. Some whales come to the Caribbean in the winter months to mate, while some whales live around Dominica all year long.
We saw an adult and baby whale together swimming side by side. They both returned underwater nearly simultaneously with their tail fins up in the air. It was so magical! We were told that whale calves do not venture at the same depths as the adult whales. For this reason, whales often take turns “baby-sitting” the calf. An adult is always nearby to defend the young whale from attacks while the mother dives down to great depths to gather food. So, it may have been the mother or another female relative of the whale, like an aunt, who was swimming beside the calf at the surface.
Our boat sped up past the dolphins and they started to follow us. There were around 50 dolphins in total and they started to chase our boat in its wake. We raced around in a giant circle a few times and the dolphins kept following behind and beside the boat, leaping into the air. We felt so incredibly lucky to view this magical experience with our own eyes!
We sailed back to shore and were able to slowly take in the beautiful scenery of the island. Our guides answered any questions that we had and served us rum punch. The island was just so green. Dominica is an oceanic rainforest, so there can be a mix of sun and rain in the same day due to the high amounts of rainfall in the island’s interior. There are many volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls, crater lakes, national parks, and hot springs on the island.
To say that we had an amazing time whale watching in Dominica would be an understatement. We hope to go whale watching in other locations in the future, too!