Awe-Inspiring Beauty of Turks and Caicos Whales
Each year, Humpback whales migrate around 6,000 miles. This amazing aquatic mammal has one of the longest migration journeys on earth. Why does it make this spectacular journey, and what brings it to the warm clear waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands?
We spoke with Big Blue Collective, a local excursion, boating kayaking and SUP company located in Leeward on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos to find out more.
Big Blue Collective team member Tanya explains their role in facilitating whale watching: “Whale season is from January to March, with February typically being the most active. Though, this is different every year. The whales migrate through here on their way to the Silver Banks to mate. Getting in the water with a humpback whale is the most amazing and awe-striking thing I’ve done. It never gets old. The excitement that comes over you when you see a whale is like nothing else. Big Blue is well versed in soft water encounters and if you are lucky enough to come across a whale and it’s willing, we will do everything we can to ensure a safe and gentle encounter.”
As the first sightings of whales tend to start sometime in December or January until late April, the whales start to engage in mating activities as well as calving. Many sightings of mother and calf have been photographed in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The winter months are the best time to see humpback whales in the Turks and Caicos.
Interesting Fact: In September 2017 in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands, whale biologist Nan Houser was snorkeling when an adult humpback whale approached her. The scientists caught on camera interesting interactive behavior from the whale, which gently nudged her to the sea’s surface. Later, Nan viewed a large tiger shark from her boat and hypothesized that the whale was trying to protect her. Scientists have recorded experiences of humpback whales exhibiting protective behavior over seals and other whales, but this was one of the first instances of a whale possibly protecting a human.
A Humpback Whale Can Weigh 66,000lbs
A Humpback whale lives an average of 45-50 years. In late autumn, Humpback whales leave the cold waters of the Arctic and swim around 3-9 mph south towards the tropics, a journey that takes only 40 days on average. They can weigh as much as 66,000 pounds, with the larger females around 50 feet and the males around 45 feet long. This southward journey toward warmer waters is done with the purpose of breeding or calving. Their journey brings the whales to several tropical locations, including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Turks and Caicos Islands!
Females typically breed every 2-3 years. Males engage in fierce competition and fighting over females and use a variety of breaching, tail slapping, and songs to establish dominance with other males and vie for the female’s attention.
Newborn calves are around the size of a mother’s head (around 20 feet) and feed off of a thick nutrient-rich milk for around 6 months. That milk is around 50% fat, pink in color, and so viscus that it holds its shape in sea water. The calves then feed off both milk and krill/fish for a further 6 months. Female humpback whales reach sexual maturity around age 5 and reach full size a few years later. Males reach sexual maturity around 7 years.
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Where to Find Whale in the Turks and Caicos
To take advantage of this season, check out Big Blue Unlimited as they’re one of the top whale watching companies in Provo that also offers a wide variety of other tours. Whether you are interested in whale watching while scuba diving or from a boat, be sure to book their tours well ahead of time. Whales come in groups and their presence is sporadic, so you’re never guaranteed a sighting. But, the magic of viewing these amazing mammals is worth the effort.
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