Posted by: Sunchaser Scuba | February 1, 2014

A whale of a tale and some dolphins too…

It is time to dedicate some well deserved time to some of the most amazing creatures in our oceans: whales and dolphins. Why now? Because it is that time of the year!

This time of the year marks the beginning of whale season. The first sighting happened off Jost Van Dyke in the beginning of January and we all look forward to seeing some ourselves.

Most sightings of whales in the British Virgin Islands occur near Jost Van Dyke, Guana Island, and the North Shore of Tortola. Saying that though, during the past few years we have been seeing more of them in the Sir Francis Drakes Channel and last year we even saw a mother and calf at the backside of Necker Island.

The most likely whale you may see is the Humpback Whale, an amazing animal which can grow up to 50 ft and weigh up to about 45 tons. They were named this because of the hump or arched back that they show when they dive down.

Humpback Whale

Generally from Mid-January through March these amazing creatures make their way from their Caribbean breeding and mating grounds up North to their feeding grounds. Although their favorite place seems to be Silver Banks in the Dominican Republic, they are found throughout the Caribbean. These calm waters will allow new-born calves to mature and strengthen before they start heading north for the summer.

You can often see then “breach” (this is when they jump out of the water), “lobtail” (when they smack their flukes on the water) or “spray-hop” (Bob up and down vertically). While diving you can often hear them on dive sites like Mt. Point.

Who does not love dolphins! We all do, that is for sure! Over the past years we have seen an increase in dolphin encounters! Over the holiday period some of our staff and guests had the chance to dive with a very friendly dolphin on the Rhone and we have also been snorkeling with some in the Dog Islands. Prior to the holidays we probably had a total of 3 dolphin encounters under the water in and around the Dog Islands so far this season. Sounds to me like we are in for a treat this year!

Check out this Amazing dolphin video! from one of our guests!

The dolphins we encountered were Bottlenose dolphin, which is the most common in the British Virgin Islands, but also in the Caribbean and most tropical waters in the world. Bottlenose dolphin is the largest of all dolphin species and they can reach more than 9 ft and weight up to 450 pounds. They are known to be amazingly personable and that is definitely how we experienced them. They are very curious and love to see humans do somersaults and corkscrews under the water!

In general, dolphins are social animals who like to live in family groups; however a solitary dolphin has been sighted by our divers on most occasions.

Both whales and dolphins are what we call cetaceans and, like all cetaceans, they are mammals. This means that they need to maintain a high body temperature (97.9 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit). It also means that they need to breathe air and that is why we get to see them at the surface. As a mammal they give birth to live young, a single calf at a time.

All cetaceans are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Humpback whales are considered endangered. Endangered means “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” according to the MMPA.  The Bottlenose comes under the “depleted” category. Which means that a species or population stock is below its optimum sustainable population or that it is listed as an endangered or threatened species.

It is not too late yet though and a lot of people put in a lot of effort, time, and energy in trying to help these animals and secure their spot in our world. If you want to help these animals or learn more about them, be sure to check out any of the following, just to name a few:

http://www.bluevoice.org/
http://us.whales.org/
http://uk.whales.org/
http://www/orcaweb.org.uk/
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/laws/mmpa/

And for us, we just enjoy them when we can!!!

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