As humpback whales travel their seasonal migrations, whale watchers and scientists are provided excellent opportunities to observe these giants in action. Regularly swimming from their northern summer feeding grounds to southern breeding grounds, humpbacks move slowly and jump almost fully out of the water, displaying to onlookers the full magnificence of their often 15-meter (50-foot) bodies. Unfortunately, it is this same predictability and playfulness that has made humpbacks easy targets for mass slaughter.
The main reason for the lengthy migration from the polar waters, where the whales feed on small fish and euphausiids (krill), to the tropical surroundings is to breed and calve in the winter months (Jan.-May). The whales don't arrive all at once in huge masses but flow in and out. Humpbacks prefer breeding waters of 75-degrees F, quiet bays and leeward sides of exposed reefs with a depth of 600 feet (100 fathoms) or less, and large banks wider than 2-3 miles.
After a gestation period of 10-12 months, the newborn calf is precocial - fully functional and able to move about on its own. The humpback calf at birth, which stretches about 12 feet in length and weighs nearly two tons, feeds on the mother's high-protein milk (100-130 gallons per day) to grow approximately one foot per month on its way to doubling in overall length in one year. Since the calf is usually born in shallow, inshore areas free from predators, the mother stays close to its calf nudging and coaxing it to keep the curious youngster close by and for bonding reasons. A third escort whale, usually a sexually-active male, accompanies the mother and calf for less than a day.
Whale watchers can double their excitement when the mothers and calves are commonly sighted together in shallow waters immediately after birth and then about two to three miles from shore a week later. The amazing thing about these giant mammals is they keep their personal life very personal. Not many humans have witnessed or recorded (accurately) the actual birth of a humpback whale or for that matter - two whales mating. It's hard to believe these 45-ft., 40-ton creatures can "hide" anything, but that's what makes the nature of whales so fascinating.
Dr. Louis Herman and Dr. Adam Pack
Join the seasoned whale watching guide of Ollie, born and raised in Salt Cay, and his staff to experience the magnificence of these huge mammals for yourself.
Salt Cay is considered the "Whale Headquarters" from January to March each year. The little cay is directly in front of Columbus Passage where the Atlantic humpbacks migrate to the Silver Banks, between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic, to calve & mate. When scuba diving and snorkeling you can hear the mesmerizing sounds from the Humpbacks. The beautiful songs assist them with their navigational skills.
Snorkeling with these huge whales during frequent "in-water encounters" is truly an awe inspiring experience. You can get an excellent view from the boat if you don't want to get in the water with them. Salt Cay is one of the last places in the world where you can actually swim with these magnificent creatures. **
Mothers and calves are frequent visitors to the waters off Salt Cay.
Hear sounds like in this recording when you snorkel with Salt Cay Divers.
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Make your reservation TODAY to snorkel with magnificent humpback whales!
**We cannot guarantee the whales will be passing by on any given day, but we'll do everything to make sure you have an adventuresome holiday.
Salt Cay Divers
supports research and protection of all marine mammals.
**Effective Jan 2012 Salt Cay Divers will be donating a portion of their whale watching sales
to Turks and Caicos Reef fund for research with Dolphins and Whales in our area.
Donation opportunities are
available at Coral Reef Bar and Grill next to the dive shop.
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