Whale-watching season starts 14 January and continues through 15 March and sometimes the season extends itself through the end of March.
Thousands of humpback whales from the North Atlantic migrate to the waters of the Dominican Republic each winter to mate and give birth. Their most popular winter rendezvous is Silver Bank, the 3,000-square-kilometer reef system north of Samana. But from there many circulate to other popular areas like humans do at singles bars! One of these gathering places is Samana Bay. More than 1,500 humpbacks visit the bay, with as many as 300 present at any given time during mating season.
The World Wildlife Fund considers Samana Bay one of the best places in the world to watch whales. It offers something for everyone—the outer bay is where you might find aggressive males competing for the favors of willing females, and the sheltered inner bay is one of the most important humpback nurseries in the world.
Mid-January to the end of March is the usual whale-watching season in Samana Bay; however, the excursions continue as long as enough whales remain. The rest of the year, the whales feed in the cold, fish-rich waters of the North Atlantic between Massachusetts Bay and Iceland and Greenland. There is no better time than the winter mating season when the male humpbacks, eager to impress the females, are most animated, and when newborn calves can be seen swimming alongside their mothers.
Humpback whales have been wintering near Samana for centuries. Cave drawings made by the aboriginal inhabitants of Los Haitises National Park long before Columbus arrived depict the spouting whales. And Columbus saw them too, as the log of his travels along the north coast in 1493 makes clear.
About Humpback Whales
Humpbacks are air-breathing mammals belonging to the group known as “great whales”. Adults measure 40-50 ft/12-15 m and weigh 30-40 tons. Babies measure 10-15 ft/3-4.5 m and weigh 1.5-2 tons. When born they have little blubber (fat) to protect them from the cold water awaiting them in the north but grow quickly on the rich milk provided by their mother. Each day they drink 50 gallons of milk that is 50-60% fat and gain 100 pounds, much of which is blubber. By comparison, the milk of a human mother is 2% fat.
Adult humpbacks are black or dark gray with white patches on the flippers, the belly, and the underside of the tail. At first glance all look alike, but there are differences. The black and white pigmentation on the underside of the tail flukes is the most common means of distinguishing one from another. No two have the same markings, enabling whale scientists to identify humpbacks in the same way humans are by their fingerprints. Permanent scars, dorsal fin shape and other unique markings also help distinguish one from another.