“Big Game Safari” – this phrase conjures up images of earth’s largest terrestrial creatures, giraffes, rhinoceri, and lumbering elephants roaming freely in their own environment. Yet even the largest living beast on land is diminutive when compared with the great mammals of the sea. We will journey to the Silver Bank, an 1100 square-mile area 70 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Here one of the largest concentrations of North American humpback whales can be found engaging in courtship activities, giving birth and nurturing their young. Our plan is to snorkel amongst them. Join this experience of a lifetime and one of the “Biggest Game Safaris” of them all: swimming with majestic humpback whales in the clear tropical waters of the Silver Bank.
The largest living beast on land is diminutive when compared with the great mammals of the sea. Sea for Yourself will journey to the Silver Bank, a 1,100 square-mile area 70 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Here one of the largest concentrations of North Atlantic humpback whales can be found annually from January through April engaging in courtship activities, giving birth to and nurturing their young. I invite you to join us in this experience of a lifetime and one of the “Biggest Game Safaris ” of them all: swimming with majestic humpback whales in the clear tropical waters of the Silver Bank.
Species great and small
Humpbacks can attain a length of 45 feet and a weight of over 50 tons. Realistically, they are the largest animals most snorkelers (or anyone!) could ever witness first-hand. In spite of their immense size, humpbacks are exquisitely graceful in the water. They are attentive, intelligent, and have no wish to accidentally (or deliberately!) bump into snorkelers, boats, or anything else for that matter. I’ve never heard of any snorkeler being subjected to aggressive behavior by these whales. In fact, quite the opposite is true — snorkelers are often regarded with curiosity, especially by the baby whales, which can be up to 15 feet long. I can honestly say that snorkeling with the humpbacks is one of the most profound and exciting experiences I have ever had in the water.
On your own, arrive at the Puerto Plata airport and transfer to the Lifestyle Hacienda Beach Resort in Cofresi. In the late afternoon there will be a detailed program orientation including guidelines for snorkeling in Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic, general tips for successful snorkeling, and an overview of our week’s activities, followed by a welcome dinner at the resort and overnight at the Resort.
After breakfast, Sea for Yourself staff will give instruction in the pool for anyone wishing to test their equipment or skills. After lunch, we will have a tour of the local area before boarding our vessel. We will cruise overnight to the Silver Bank, approximately 70 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic.
Upon arriving at the Silver Bank, we anchor near the wreck of the Polyxeni. After breakfast, we begin with a snorkeling orientation, followed by lunch. In the afternoon we have our first excursion aboard a roomy 25-foot tender reserved for our group. On each of the following days we will have two excursions, one after breakfast and a second in the early afternoon after lunch and a rest onboard ship. In the later afternoons we will return to the ship to sip sundowners, recap the day’s adventures, enjoy slide-illustrated presentations, and leisurely dinners.
We depart our anchorage at Silver Bank and head back to the port at Cofresi. Upon arrival in the late afternoon, we head into town for some time on our own before our farewell dinner in a local restaurant. This will be our last night aboard ship.
After breakfast on board, we disembark and transfer to the Puerto Plata airport for our return flights home.
Cost to be announced.
Upgrade to a Master Stateroom for $TBD per person at double occupancy is very limited and subject to availability. For those requesting a single stateroom, an additional supplement of $TBD will be added to the tour cost. Please be advised that single space is very limited, subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed.
If you wish to share a room we will do our best to find a roommate for you. If, by the time of departure, a share cannot be found and space is available, you will be charged a single supplement.
A $150 per person fee (subject to change) for access to the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic will be due at the time of final payment. A Port Fee of $100 per person (subject to change) will be due in cash when you board the ship.
Our prices are based upon the prevailing rate as of April 2013, which is far in advance of the trip’s departure. We will do everything possible to maintain our prices, if land or fuel costs increase significantly prior to departure, it may be necessary to increase these costs. While we reserve the right to institute an increase, to date it has never been necessary to do so on our programs.
The tour fee includes…
All group bus, and boat, most meals as indicated in the itinerary, accommodations in resorts and hotels as specified, all snorkeling activities, cultural and natural history excursions, local taxes, services of the trip leader including any needed snorkeling lessons and biology lectures.
The tour fee does not include international or domestic airfare, transfers, deviations from international group flights, air upgrades, departure taxes, medical immunizations, medical expenses, visa and passport fees, accident/ baggage/ cancellation insurance, individual transfers, excess baggage charges, meals not specified in the itinerary, dishes and beverages not part of included meals, alcoholic beverages, laundry, telephone or fax charges, room service, Sea for Yourself staff or crew gratuities, rental gear, SCUBA diving activities and other items of a personal nature.
Other terms and conditions exist, please see all the information listed in the download section
Although we are acquainted with air routes to and from the Dominican Republic, we do not issue airline tickets. The airline you select may depend on your individual city of departure, and preference for travel times. While we are happy to share our opinions and past experiences with you, (in addition to supplying toll-free airline phone numbers and associated websites), we suggest working with your local travel agent or the airline directly.
For this adventure we have booked space aboard the 138-foot M/V Sundancer II, an ideal vessel for whale watching both above and below the water’s surface.
The ship is one of three vessels that has been granted a Sanctuary permit and has an experienced and knowledgeable captain and professional crew of eight. With 4 decks (three of which are for passengers) it is spacious, comfortable and well-appointed. Interior areas are air-conditioned and well-lit by picture windows that allow for whale watching even while indoors.
On the Main Deck, Deluxe staterooms have two twin beds or one-king-sized bed. There are also two Master Staterooms with a single queen-sized bed available at extra cost. Each stateroom has en suite facilities, individual climate controls and picture windows. The aft portion of the Main Deck contains a large Dive Deck featuring two freshwater showers, warm fresh towels, a water fountain, separate rinse tanks for cameras and snorkel gear and a dedicated gear station for each participant. The Lido Deck houses the main salon where we will enjoy hearty meals from the chef and gather for presentations.
Deposits & Payments
A deposit of $1000, plus a signed, completed reservation form confirms your registration for this trip. You will be notified when your space on the program is confirmed. Final payment plus Sanctuary Fee and single supplement, if applicable, are due four months prior to departure.
It’s important to enunciate the skill level appropriate to this trip and review potential water conditions. In contrast to many other Sea for Yourself programs, this one is best enjoyed by snorkelers who are already comfortable and competent in the water. Interactions with whales will be dictated by their location (and demeanor), and guidelines established by the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic. We’ve done everything possible to maximize our chances of finding co-operative whales – our operator is the best in the business, and this is the perfect time of year. However, whether or not we swim with the whales is really up to them, not us, and cannot be guaranteed.
You should also remember that typically, whales are found in relatively deep water. Chances are you will not see any bottom in areas hosting whales. This is termed “blue-water snorkeling” and can be disconcerting for novice snorkelers. Depending on your swimming ability, you may find a floatation vest helpful.
In all cases, for your safety and enjoyment, we encourage you to acknowledge and stay within your own personal limitations. Our trip leaders will gladly provide any needed snorkeling instruction.
In March, the average daily temperature is 78ºF. The Dominican Republic’s climate is mild, subtropical, with cooling Caribbean breezes. The so-called ‘cool’ or winter season, runs from November through April. The humidity is relatively low during these months and it tends to cool down in the evenings much more than in the summer months. We have chosen a time that should give us suitable weather conditions, but please note, as with any tropical destination, that there will always be a chance of rain.
Water temperatures in the Dominican Republic are expected to be in the range of 76-82 ºF. Thermal tolerance obviously varies with each individual. As a guideline, many people wear a 2-3 millimeter wetsuit when in the water longer than 30 or 40 minutes. Please remember that some kind of covering (such as a Lycra suit or even pajamas!) when in the water is highly recommended as protection from sun, occasional stinging zooplankton, or to prevent abrasions. On this program, we recommend that you seriously consider wearing a wetsuit.
Sea for Yourself provides participants who are U.S. or Canadian citizens with limited medical, accident and evacuation coverage under our group travel insurance policy. We highly recommend the purchase of optional baggage and trip cancellation insurance; information will be sent to registrants. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions may be waived with the prompt purchase of travel insurance.