Humpback Whale Watching 101

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Every winter between January and March, thousands of humpback whales make their annual pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic to mate and birth their calves in the Samana bay. The Dominican Republic has one of the best Humpback breeding sanctuaries in the world, which also means that they have some of the best whale watching tours as well. Whether you are staying in Punta Cana or another part of the island, you shouldn’t miss the spectacular sightings of the humpback whale.

Humpback whales are considered the perfect whale for whale watching, because they really put on a show with all of their above water activities. As you prepare for your vacation and your whale watching tour, we are going to give you the cliff notes to whale watching 101, with some of the jargon to help you get a head start on recognizing some of the whale tricks you are sure to see on your tour.

Breaching
Humpback Whales love to put on a show, and breaching is one of the most exciting and breathtaking sights on the Punta Cana Whale Watching Tour.

Breaching is when the whale jumps high into the air and then splashes back down on the water as they come back down.

No one is really sure why the whales do this, some scientist believe that breaching helps loosen skin parasites, it might also be a way for the whales to communicate with each other. Other scientist believe that it might be just for fun. Either way it is an amazing thing to watch as almost 40% of the whale’s body comes above the water, showing the whale in its full glory.

Fluke
whales-4The fluke is the name of the whale’s massive tail fin. This fin is long and broad and can be anywhere from 10 to 15 feet long.

The humpback whale uses his fluke to swim, and what helps them propel themselves out of the water to jump into the air and create a huge splash. The fluke is one of the most interesting parts of the whale’s body, because it has special markings which are kind of like fingerprints.

Each whale has a different marking, and scientist and whale watchers alike have used these markings to identify different whales. While you are on your tour, take a good look at the flukes, maybe you too can try to identify the different whales.

Spy hopping
Humpback whales are curious creatures and have been known to enjoy watching whale watchers as much as we enjoy watching them.

Spy hopping is when a whale sticks their head out of the water, kind of like a periscope, to look around and get a better view of their surroundings. The the humpback whale bring their eye to just below the water.

Spyhopping is a really amazing experience for whale watchers, it’s not every day you are able to look a humpback whale in the eye.

Pectoral Fin Slap
Also known as pec slapping, is when the whale swims on its side or back and raises its pectoral fin into the air and slaps it back onto the water.

Pectoral fins can be up to 15 feet in length, which is one third the size of the whale’s body, so when they use their fin to slap the water it can create an impressive splash.

Like breaching, we’re not quite sure why whales do this, but it might be a way of communicating with other whales in the pod, or, it could be a way for courting whales to attract attention.

Lobtailing
Whales-1Lobtailing is when the whale lifts its large fluke, or tail fin out of the water and then slaps it hard and fast on the water making a splash and a slapping sound.

This sound can be heard for several meters below the water’s surface. Like some of the other humpback behaviors, scientist are not quite sure of why whales lobtail, but they think it might be a way for the whales to communicate with each other.

This is an exciting thing to see and hear while whale watching, as you can gain an appreciation for the true strength and size of these animals.

While this may only be a crash course in whale watching jargon, you might now be able to name some of the exciting things you’ll see on your whale watching tour and be the smartest person on your boat. If you are staying in Punta Cana, be sure to check out the Punta Cana Whale Watching Tour,which is a great way to see more of the beautiful island, while catching one of the Dominican Republics greatest treasures.

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