Samana is one of the best places to watch the North Atlantic Humpback Whales before they begin their migration to the summer lands such as Iceland and Greenland. Not all of the whales travel in one group, but if you are in Samana during the whale-watching season, you can witness 300 or more whales at once. With such a large group on display, you're sure to catch a glimpse of whales in their natural habitat showing beautiful acrobatic moves. They don't do it for fun but to alert other whales to a feeding ground. It's also their way to get rid of their sunburnt skin after a long migration journey.
Why Do Whales Migrate?
Whales migrate for various reasons, but the main two reasons are to find food and reproduce. As the seasons change, so does the temperature of the water. Due to many marine animals migrating to a place with a temperature more favorable, food becomes scarce in the area. So in the warmer months, the whales migrate to cooler regions where food is more readily available and to avoid starvation.
Additionally, whales migrate to different areas to reproduce. They like to be in familiar areas to mate and have their young, which is why whales return to the same breeding ground each year.
Humpback Whales Migration Route
As the winter season approaches, the whales leave the cold waters of Greenland and Iceland and begin to migrate toward the Caribbean Sea, mainly the warm waters of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The whales then make their way to the warm waters of Samaná Bay, the Bahamas, and Mexico for mating season. The whales come together to mate, give birth and then nurse their young. Finally, the whales return to the north, filling themselves with krill fish – their primary food source.
The bay of Samana is a marine mammal sanctuary meaning that there are laws in place to protect the whales and other marine mammals from boats, hunters, and fishermen. Only approved whale-watching boats are allowed to enter the bay. This sanctuary of the humpback whales is to protect the mothers, young calves, and males in the bay for mating season.
What You'll Experience
You'll watch a beautiful display of whales leaping out of water in groups. Apart from the moms swimming with their newborn calves, you'll also hear whales' courting songs. On some tours, you'll be given a hydrophone to listen to them. Mating season is the best time to see plenty of male humpbacks in the same area. One of the most exciting activities you'll see is when twenty male whales compete for mating with a female whale, making incredible displays to view on your Samana tour. The whole scene will include whales lunging their heads, slamming each other, breaching, and blowing water. Breaching happens when a whale jumps in the air and then crashes back to the water's surface.
How to Choose a Tour for Whale Watching?
It is always recommended to book a boat that is not overcrowded and strongly built. Samana Bay is a protected whale sanctuary, so the rules for whale watching here are strict. The number of boat tours and the speed of boats sighted near the whales are monitored carefully, making them a safer place for humpback whales. When the guides tell you about something that is not permitted during the tour, trust them on this and adhere to the rules and regulations. Want to book a different itinerary? You can check whale-watching tours on Trip Advisor, Travelocity, or our favorite tour and experience provider, Viator. You may also ask your hotel staff to guide you about good tour options in Samana and even private excursions.
Getting to Samaná
Most whale-watching tours offer pick-and-drop service to Samana from major cities, including Punta Cana. If you want to reach Samana on your own, you can get on a metro bus or choose from various Caribe Tours. If you don't want to stay overnight in Samana, check the bus timetable from Samana.
Best Samana Whale-Watching Tours
The whale-watching tours begin in the second week of January and last until late March. This date range, also known as mating season, is when you will see the most active whale species on a tour of the Bay of Samaná. To be completely prepared for the tour, be sure to bring rain gear, just in case the Caribbean weather intends to give you a nice rain shower. Since the Bay of Samana is restricted, you will have to rely on tour operators to get the unique opportunity of whale watching in the whale breeding grounds, as you cannot rent a boat and go on your own.
During this tour, you will sail out into Samana Bay in search of migrating humpback whales on a spacious catamaran. After you spot some whales, head for Bacardi Island in the middle of Samana Bay to relax and enjoy lunch and drinks. This tour combines a nature-focused adventure with a relaxing time on the beach, giving you the best of both worlds. This tour was ranked in Viator's Experience Awards 2022, making it one of the world's top experiences and best things to do.
The most popular and oldest whale-watching tours are operated by Whale Samana. The tours by Whale Samana feature an onboard expert who will guide you throughout the whale-watching journey and answer your questions. Book your whale-watching tour with the famous marine mammal specialist Kim Beddall – the pioneer of whale tours for over 25 years. This trip is worthy because Kim Beddall guarantees you'll spot the whales during your tour. Though Kim doesn't provide transportation, you can book with the tour company that provides pick-and-drop service to and from all the hotels in Punta Cana. You'll see humpback whales living in their natural habitat and mating grounds in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic. Listen to the male whales' courting songs and the incredible display of these huge mammals breaching around the ocean.
The Caribbean is well-known for its diverse marine life, and Las Terrenas is no exception. With the pods of humpback whales visiting the area for breeding, it's a great opportunity to cruise in the sea to learn about these mammals. The trip also allows you enough time to enjoy other activities. Most of the tours running from Las Terrenas offer a transfer from your hotel, lunch, a tour guide, bottled water, and life jackets. The tour guides assigned for these trips are specialized in sea animals and will surprise you with their knowledge of each move that whales make. The tour will end at the same port where it started.
This great excursion begins from Samana Port. This full-day trip allows you to experience whale watching in Samana Bay and visit the beautiful island of Cayo Levantado, followed by lunch. From 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, the catamaran takes you to the sanctuary observatory, and after whale watching, you'll head off to the island. In Cayo Levantado, a native Dominican-style lunch is provided with enough time to swim until 4:30 pm. Keep necessary items with you, such as sunscreen, swimming clothes, and your camera. You wouldn't want to miss capturing the whales and the beauty of Cayo Levantado, would you?
Live an unforgettable experience while watching the humpback whales jumping in and out of Samana Bay. This unique tour begins from Cap Cana, where you'll be transported to Samana to watch these enormous living beings singing songs, showing amazing performances, flapping, and breaching. The most exciting sight is when male whales try to attract female whales and show various behaviors to catch their attention. Some of the tours from Cap Cana also take you to the island of Cayo Levantado, where you enjoy a delicious lunch on the beach. This 8-hour tour accompanied by a professional guide, is truly the best thing you can experience in Samana.
Set sail on a boat ride on the crystal blue waters surrounding Punta Cana on this small-group experience. Swim in a nature reserve, snorkel in the seas, and enjoy drinks aboard your comfortable catamaran. Relax in one of the boat's hammocks and let the crew pamper you with tropical cocktails as you enjoy the view of the beautiful Dominican waters. Anchor in a sandbar and enjoy beverages from a floating bar as part of this wonderful water experience.
While this isn't specifically a whale-watching tour, depending on the time of year (during the peak whale-watching season of mid-December to late March) of your Dominican Republic travel, you will have the opportunity to see whales during the tour. Additionally, this tour was also ranked in Viator's Experience Awards 2022.
Experience Whale Watching in the Dominican Republic
If you are in the Dominican Republic from January 15th to the end of March, sailing off the coast of the Dominican Republic to go whale watching is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This one-time opportunity is why I recommend a Samana whale-watching tour so you can see these magnificent mammals up close and in their natural habitat. Once you have finished your whale-watching trips, there are many additional things to do in the Dominican republic, such as relaxing on the coast of its beautiful beaches. All in all, Dominican Republic whale watching is something that should be on your bucket list.