While visitors to the Silver Bank are thrilled by the number of whales and the variety of surface behaviors, it is the opportunity to safely join them in the water that is so unique. Being in the whales’ own environment, eye to eye in the ocean can be life changing.
The Silver Bank is part of the much larger Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic. This is one of very few places on Earth where swimming with humpback whales is officially sanctioned, permitted and regulated. As a Marine Protected Area, all activities, including swimming, are subject to very specific regulations. These serve several purposes. First and foremost they protect the whales, but they also provide you with the best chance of a lasting and meaningful encounter.
Swim With Humpback Whales During a Soft-In-Water Encounter: The Foundation for a Meaningful Interaction
A Soft-In-Water encounter (the only type of swimmer interaction permitted the Sanctuary) is a low impact non-aggressive activity. Swimmers simply float calmly in the vicinity of a tolerant and cooperative whale, allowing the natural curiosity of the whale to draw them closer.
You will wear a mask, snorkel and fins but no SCUBA equipment of any type is allowed. There is no active swimming or freediving, participants float quietly at the surface as a group. This relaxed, non-aggressive interaction is sensitive to the whales and their young.It is an encounter in their environment, on their terms.
Because it is snorkel-only, the experience of swimming with the humpback whales is open to participants of all skill levels. However, you do need to feel comfortable in the ocean and have basic snorkeling skills.
You Don’t Approach the Whale, The Whale Approaches You
People often ask us: “how close do we get to the whales?" and we re-phrase it to “how close do the whales get to us?" It is impossible to get close to a whale that does not want to be approached. But, as you may find out, a curious whale can approach swimmers very closely. During all soft-in-water interactions the whales are in control of the distance, duration, and tempo of any encounter.
Because humpback whales are wild animals there is no way to predict the outcome of every opportunity, but using this non-aggressive technique has resulted in interactions that last anywhere from minutes to hours each day.
Successful Humpback Encounters
Vital to the success of any encounter is choosing which whale to approach. There are a wide range of humpback behaviors on display at any given time on the Silver Bank. While they all make for excellent whale watching, they may not be conducive to in-water encounters. Whales that are cruising or involved inrowdy behaviororsurface social behaviorare not candidates. In contrast, resting, singing, or courting whales, are. Our job as guides is to find whales that are most likely to welcome interaction, making it the best possible experience for both the whales and you.
With years of experience observing and interpreting humpback whale behavior, we have honed the skills needed to help place you where you need to be for greatest success. We can’t predict what will happen on any given day and which whales we will cross paths with, but as with any true wilderness, the Silver Bank never ceases to amaze and inspire.