It’s also due to the fact that Dominica is one of the top whale watching destinations in the world.
The island is home to the largest amount of whale species native to the Caribbean; out of 33 species of cetaceans that call the Caribbean Sea their home, 22 of them regularly bask in the deep coastal waters along western Dominica.
There’s only one nation in the world where sperm whales reside for the entire year, and that country is Dominica.
Unlike other species of whale that only swim around Dominica at certain times of the year due to migration; Sperm whales mate, calve, and socialize in the waters around the island.
The Dominica Sperm Whale Project, the largest sperm whale research program in the world has been in operation since 2005. Thousands of hours have been dedicated to the observation of the world’s largest toothed whale.
Over a decade of studying these oceanic giants mean that the sperm whale population of Dominica is the most studied in the world; there are detailed behavioral histories of individuals, knowledge of calves from the moment of birth, and knowledge of family groups.
Other than sperm whales, other commonly seen whales on these tours include humpback whales, melon head whales, short-fin pilot whales, and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
The whale-watching tour begins at Anchorage Hotel and Whale-Watching Center, a family run business that has pioneered the whale-watching industry in the West Indies.
Before departing on the whale watching cruise, a briefing is quickly done near to the mounted skeleton of a sperm whale that beached herself in Thibaud Bay in North Eastern Dominica in 2001.
The whale was buried soon after, but in 2004 the bones were recovered, cleaned, and then carefully put back together to be housed at the Anchorage Marine Mammal Interpretation Center.
Shortly after leaving harbor, we encountered our first sighting; a small school of dolphins that began to leap playfully just ahead of the boat’s bow.
They disappeared before I managed to get them in focus for a picture.
At several points in our long journey into the open Atlantic Ocean, the crew would stop the vessel to listen for whales communicating with each other by using a hydrometer. This underwater microphone can pick up the clicking noise made by most whales so that the skipper will get a better idea of what direction to steer the boat. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear anything!
As we sailed further into the vast ocean, we were treated to a view of the entire island of Dominica from its northern point to the most southern point, but we still can’t see any whales.
Eventually everyone in the boat has their eyes peeled, constantly scanning the horizon in hopes of seeing a few fins or a spout that signifies a whale exhaling.
Finally, a short black fin is seen briefly emerging from some waves in the distance.
The crew is alerted and everyone began searching the seas in that direction hoping to catch another glimpse.
After what seems like forever the fin emerges from the water again…. and there’s some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that although it was from a distance we managed to see the second species of whale for the day. These were either killer whales, or their more elusive distant cousin the false-killer whale.
The bad news is that these whales are the apex predators of the ocean; they both hunt and kill most other species of whales.
Other whales usually dive deep and limit communication with each other to avoid detection by orcas. That meant that seeing any more whales just became extremely unlikely.
There’s some more good news! As the boat headed back to shore, we still had beautiful weather, a picturesque view of Dominica to enjoy and unlimited rum punch!
Dominica is among the top whale watching destination in the world. I knew that I was visiting the island outside of their whale watching season and that the chance of not seeing any whales was highest around this time.
Our whale watching tour was sponsored by Anchorage Whale Watching Center, pioneers in the West Indian whale watching industry.