Whales appear in the Dominican Republic at the same time every year - from mid-January to mid-March, and at the same place - the Bay of Samana. As soon as the first giant humpbacked whale is spotted in the waters of Samana, whale season begins in the Dominican Republic.
Adult animals swim thousands of kilometers to find a mate here, pregnant whales - to give birth, and females with cubs - perhaps to learn the latest news. The young whales as happens in mammals - to gain experience.
Large humpback whales
All cetaceans are descendants of the terrestrial mammals Artiodactyla order. Hippos are one of the closest living relatives of whales. They are descended from a common ancestor that lived about 54 million years ago.
Whales have retained many of the features of their terrestrial ancestors: hair-whiskers on the snout, elongated cervical spine with separate vertebrae, movable head, big nose and enlarged pelvic bones.
Like all mammals, whales breathe air through lungs, are warm-blooded, feed calves milk from mammary glands and have a scalp.
Whales are the largest animals on the planet - the blue whale in adulthood reaches an average body length of 25 meters (the longest - 33 meters) and weight - 90-120 tons.
In the oceans, there live three major populations of humpback whales as well as about 10 individual stocks
Humpback whales have been swimming to Haiti for centuries. The proof is in drawings made in caves by the indigenous people of Haiti which shows fights among males competing for females
Whales make the longest seasonal migration among mammals. During the year, the whale swims 12 000-19 000 km. In 40 years, this would cover the distance from the Earth to the Moon and back.
Whale fountains do not consist of water but of air and water vapor. They release the air from their lungs before diving.
In cold water, whales maintain body temperature due to a thick layer of fat. This layer protects the internal organs from hypothermia.
Like fingerprints in humans, each humpback whale has a unique pattern on the underside of the tail.
The age of whales is determined by layers of ear wax. It is believed that the oldest humpback whale was 48 years old. However, observations began only after the hunting ban which killed the largest, and therefore - the oldest whales.
Male humpback whales sometimes sing for days in a row, performing a rich repertoire of "songs".
Humpbacks now and then give each other a friendly touch and during courtship, gently rub sides and poke their noses.
Due to the fact that whales, like dolphins, occasionally need to rise to the surface for breath, the halves of their brain take turns sleeping.
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When feeding, the animal can dive to a depth of 300 meters but not for more than fifteen minutes. But floating idly, humpback whales can stay underwater for more than an hour barely moving their fins.
The parental instinct in whales is very developed: the female can throw herself onto a boat with people if she believes her cub is threatened
Now, gray whale hunts are permitted only to the indigenous people of Chukotka for their needs (140 whales per season) and to the Japanese for research (50 whales).
Twice in the last 100 years (the end of 19th century and in the 1930’s) an American whale population was on the verge of extinction. In the years 1900-1967 American whaling fleets killed more than 2.5 thousand whales, approximately the same number as the local people of Alaska and Chukotka.
Asian population of whales was undermined by Japanese whalers in the 19th century. In 1910, there were 1,000-1,500 whales. Over the next 20 years in South Korean waters, 1474 gray whales were killed.
Samana Bay is a marine reserve and there are special laws ensuring the safety of whales in the Dominican Republic. The rules to be followed:
- Limited number of ships carrying tourists may be here at the same time;
- It specifies the minimum allowable distance between the ship and the whale;
- It limits the speed of movement of vessels in the area;
- Limited time whale watching;
- For the sake of order and tranquility for the whales warships monitor activity in this area.
An excursion to observe whales in the Dominican Republic is considered to be one of the most exciting tours in the world! Every year thousands of tourists come specially to the Dominican Republic to watch the humpback whales.
Whale watching in the Dominican Republic is carried out not only by tourists but also by teams of scientists and researchers. National Geographic bases a ship in the Bay of Samana throughout the whale season.
Tourists often ask, what are the chances to see whales during the tour? The answer will please you. In February, that is, at the height of whale season, 100% of the tourists with their own eyes observe the marriage games of large humpback whales!