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Look! A puff of ocean spray! Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready because the Dominican Republic’s Humpback Whale Watching Season is in full swing. Together with Hawaii, the DR is the top destination for Humpback whale watching in the world and at Casa de Campo we are so close to all the thrilling action that no one should miss it!
Few things are as exciting as spotting the Earth’s largest mammal at the ocean’s surface and Samaná bay, located on the northeast peninsula of the country, greets 1,500 Humpback whales every year! This year’s season will extend itself until March 25th, which gives us an entire month to plan a trip to Samaná bay to catch these magnificent creatures leaping and splashing.
Every winter, the majority of the North Atlantic Humpback whale population (approximately 12,000 whales), migrate between 2,000 and 4,000 miles from their northern feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine, the east coast of Canada, Greenland and Iceland, to the warm Caribbean waters of the Dominican Republic to reproduce.
These magnificent whales then spend the months of January, February and March “cruising” the North Dominican coastline, courting and competing for the opportunity to mate. This is also the time when pregnant females will give birth to their young (after a 11.5 month gestation!)
Throughout the mating season, Samaná bay itself is visited by more than 1,500 Humpback whales, meaning that at any one time there may be as many as 300 whales in the area. Not only do Humpback Whales jump around a lot and gaze at people, Humpbacks are famous for their spectacular open-mouth surface feeding techniques and for their songs, sung in their breeding grounds.
Humpback whales have been migrating to the Dominican Republic for mating season for centuries; in the “Los Haitises” national park, indigenous drawings can be seen depicted the whales and Christopher Columbus recorded seeing them in 1943 in his ship’s log.
Want to see the whales?
To go see the Humpback whales in Samaná, you can choose to drive over and spend 2 or 3 nights in Samaná (see below for accommodation details). Due to the popularity of this activity, there are literally hundreds of different options, but because they are all very similar, we recommend to book with your hotel — that way you will be picked up and dropped off again at your hotel.
Something else to also keep in mind is the size of the boat — whatever you do you do not want to be in a small “yola”, the ocean is rough and with hundreds of whales out there, a small boat simply isn’t safe, or comfortable for that matter. And with whale watching regulations prevent boats getting “up-close” — larger boats, with their high vantage point, offer far superior visibility.
The following is a tour offered by Xeliter Vista Mare (residential complex and excellent accommodation option for which we provide details below):
- Children (age 4-12): US$33
- Adults: US$65
Includes: Transport from Xeliter to the port, visit to the whale sanctuary, whale watching, buffet lunch in Cayo Levantado, time to relax on the beach at Cayo Levantado.
Staying in Samaná
Given the increasing popularity of the Samaná area as a tourist destination, there are numerous (more than 50) accommodation options, but one which we recently tried and really liked is Xeliter Vista Mare ([email protected] / (809) 562-6725), a residential complex with modern 1,2,3 and 4 bedroom apartments. It’s well located and best of all because of it’s location above the water, it offers magnificent views of the entire Samaná bay — and in whale season that means you can watch the whales from your balcony, from the pool, or from the restaurant as you enjoy breakfast or lunch.
The view from Xeliter Vista Mare
Rates at Xeliter vary between US$165 for a one bedroom apartment to US$514 for a 4 bedroom apartment, here are their rates during whale watching season:
Take a look at some pictures from Xeliter Vista Mare courtesy of their Facebook Page:
Getting to Samaná
Driving from Casa de Campo, La Romana: If you’re travelling from Casa de Campo the trip is approximately 3.5 hours (or maybe even less).
Recommended route from Casa de Campo to Samaná
Approximate directions are:
Leaving Casa de Campo turn right and join the La Romana Bypass. This highway will then take you all the way to Santo Domingo, as you “Las Américas” main Santo Domingo airport, look out for signposts to “Las Terrenas” and “Samaná” – they should pop up on your right hand side. When you see the signs, follow that road and you should find yourself on the toll road to Las Terrenas and Samaná. At the very end of the road it forks – take the right fork (should be signposted “Las Terrenas” and “Samaná”) the Northern fork heads towards Caberete and Puerto Plata. Follow the road and the signs to Samaná.
Note: The main road is a toll road – along the way you will be charged at numerous toll booths, so be prepared with plenty of cash (we think the total tolls add up to approximately RD$600 – but we recommend you take a little extra just in case.)