Humpback Whales on Caribbean Waters
Whale watching has become a popular activity in recent years in many places around the world, including California, Galapagos, New Zealand, Iceland, and arctic Canada. Although traveling across the globe to see whales may be an exhilarating experience, you can find them in the waters surrounding the US Virgin Islands of St. John and St. Thomas. If you’re a beachgoer, hotel visitor, or live on the northeast side of St. Thomas, you should pay attention to the water between February and March. It’s the prime whale watching season in the Virgin Islands, but sometimes they can be spotted in late January or early April.
Humpback whales are the most common types of whales commonly seen in the local waters, and they’re a sight to behold. An adult humpback whale typically measures up to 50 feet long and can weigh up to 65 tonnes. Besides humpback whales, you may also see the occasional pilot whale in October or November, and in rare circumstances, even a sperm whale. With that in mind, if you were contemplating finding a pristine whale watching destination, read on to discover everything you may need to know about whale watching in the US Virgin Islands.
Why Do Whales Come to the Caribbean Waters?
Humpback whales travel to South America through the warmer Caribbean waters to give birth and mate. As they head back north, they may pass through St. Thomas. Adult humpback whales feature a layer of blubber that keeps them warm in colder waters. Their calves don’t have this layer, which is why the whales migrate to seek warmer conditions and to allow it to grow before going back to their original habitat up north.
Where in the US Virgin Islands Can You See Whales?
Whales can often be seen near Thatch Cay, a short distance northeast of Coki Point on St. Thomas. The residents in St. John have also reported whale sightings southwest of the island. Other areas you’re likely to spot whales include;
- Lovango Cays
- North Drop
However, keep in mind that seeing or not seeing a whale may entirely depend on how close the whales swim close to the shore during the time of your visit. Sometimes even scuba divers may fail to see any whales during their excursions. Despite that, you may still hear male humpback whales sing their unique songs to attract females for mating. These sounds are sung at a low frequency and can travel for up to 20 miles.
What You Need to Know About Whale Watching in the US Virgin Islands
Once-in-a-lifetime thrills can sometimes make you forget those wild animals can be vulnerable too. Currently, it’s estimated that there are about 10,000 to 15,000 humpback whales globally, which is why they’re federally protected from poachers. According to the Federal Endangered Species Act, the word take means to harm, harass, pursue, hunt, trap, or shoot an endangered animal. Humpback whales can get stressed by extensive interaction. That’s why there are clear directives to prevent this from happening. If you see a humpback whale or cetacean during your expedition, ensure that you follow the below precautions to the letter.
- The captain of the vessel you’re traveling in should reduce the speed to less than seven knots within 400 meters of the closest whale. Meanwhile, they should also try to avoid changing the course suddenly.
- Your vessel should never approach a whale from the front or behind. Instead, your captain should approach the whale from the side or move in a direction parallel to the animal.
- You should also avoid approaching or positioning your boat closer than 100 meters to any whale.
- If it’s not possible for the vessel to observe the 100-meter spacing guideline, the captain should switch the boat to neutral and allow the whales to pass.
- It may also be a good idea to limit your watch time to at least 30 minutes since this can diminish the cumulative impact of the vessel traffic while providing every visitor with ample time to watch the whales.
- You’re also not supposed to go inside the water if a whale is passing by. It can place your life in imminent danger.
Besides that, there are a few things that you should consider having with you during your whale-watching trip to guarantee a worthwhile experience. Although the boat crew may offer some items, you should still consider having them. They include;
- Extra refreshments
- A pair of binoculars
- Sunscreen and a hat
Whale watching can be a captivating experience. There are countless locations worldwide where you can do it. If you’re an American, consider visiting the US Virgin Islands.
If you need a boat charter to help you move around, Sonic Charters can provide affordable rentals available in different options to suit your needs.