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Dominica Sperm Whale Expedition

Swim, snorkel, and free dive with the world’s largest predator, the magnificent Sperm whale.

November 18th to 25th and November 24th to December 1st, 2018. $3175 per person, based on two sharing. 

Dominica sperm whalesFor November 2018 we have secured permits for up to six people to get up close and personal with the resident Sperm whales of Dominica, and take photographs and videos of them, on two different trips. 

We will be based in Roseau, Dominica, with five days days on the ocean on board the Bonita Rose with expert whale guide Arun “Izzy” Madisetti, returning the the comforts of Castle Comfort Lodge at the end of every afternoon, and a full day touring the verdant, mountainous island. 

Permits are getting harder and harder to to secure, this is an extremely rare opportunity to photograph these giants, at an unbeatable price. The 7-night trip costs $3175 USD per person, including fees, permits, breakfasts at Castle Comfort, group airport transfers, and transport for one day's land touring. Single occupancy costs $3470 in a standard room, $3665 in a seaview room.

Domincia sperm whaleEach morning we will go out and use underwater listening devices to locate whale families. Once we have successfully approached a unit, three people will slip into the water with Izzy, and move slowly towards the whales. Interaction time with one unit could between 30 seconds and 90 minutes, the whales decide. If the interaction lasts more than a few minutes, the three people in the water will swap places with the three on the boat, rotating every few minutes so everyone gets a chance to share the encounter. If the whales are comfortable, the second triplet can slip in.  If the interaction is too brief to allow a switch over, the next encounter will start with the other group of three going in first.

The interactions take place several miles out to sea, which could be calm or could have some swell. You should be prepared to spend plenty of time on the boat waiting for encounters, and should also be prepared to do some swimming to approach and follow the whales. We may also encounter other marine mammals, notably dolphins and pilot whales.

We will take packed lunches with us, and there will be hot water on board for teas and coffee. Water temperatures will be in the low 20s, but in the water you will be moving quite a lot, so a 5mm wetsuit will be sufficient.


The program

Day 1             Arrive Melville Hall airport, transfer to Castle Comfort, Roseau

Day 2           Sperm whales

Day 3           Sperm whales

Day 4            Sperm whales

Day 5            Sperm whales

Day 6            Sperm whales

Day 7            Island tour      

Day 8           Return to the airport

Some Dominican sperm whale info

Sperm whales form strong lifelong relationships. They babysit for each other, have family traditions passed on by grandmothers, learn a communal dialect, and have different ways of life that resemble our various cultures. They live rich, complex and interesting lives.

Dominica sperm whale 2The sperm whales off Dominica are predominantly groups of females and their dependent calves living together in 'units'. In the Caribbean, these units are small, about 7 animals, and appear to be matrilineal, (a female line of grandmothers, mothers, and their calves; refrred to as families). Young males leave their families in their early teens to roam the open ocean, mostly alone, and may never see their families again.  Units of females and their young regularly travel across ranges spanning several islands in the Antilles, but they appear to remain in the Caribbean as these families have never be identified in the neighbouring waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Sargasso Sea, where there is also sperm whale research.

Dominica sperm whales

Over 20 different whale families have been identified in the waters off Dominica, and there are about 10 that are seen regularly. Based on researchers images, It is known that they have been using these waters since at least 1984, but likely much longer based on their life history. Sperm whales can live to be older then 70 years. Meaning they meet a lot of other whales over their lifetime. It would appear that families have preferences with each other, and these social preferences endure across decades, suggesting that individuals can remember each other despite long separations.

Researchers think this social recognition is mediated by distinct dialects of Morse code called ‘codas’. Each family has a slightly different coda repertoire, but also share coda types with the other units in the Caribbean. Shared repertoires delineate socially segregated ‘vocal clans’ – collections of units that share a similar coda dialect. Units which share the same dialect associate and spend time together and units that have different repertoires never gather together.

 In the Caribbean, the '1+1+3' coda type, which sounds like 'Click-pause-Click-pause-Click-Click-Click', is unique to the region. Ithas been used for at least the last three decades, and is made the same way by all the whales use it, like a marker of Caribbean nationality.

All whale images on this page taken under permit .




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