Whale Hello There

Check "whale watching" off my DR bucket list. 

It's something I've wanted to do ever since I learned that humpback whales swim 7000 km. from their feeding grounds off the coast of eastern Canada, northern New England, Greenland, and Norway to mate and calve in Samana Bay every year, so my direct report, friend, and adventure buddy Courtney and I hit the road for the long weekend (Monday was a Dominican holiday). Just to help you connect the dots a bit, that means most humpback whales are Dominican!

Samana is located on a peninsula about 3.5 hrs. from where we live. Rolling into town minutes before curfew, we got out to stretch our legs and take in the charming malecón before being confined to our Airbnb for the rest of Sunday. 

The pool was delightful until a large extended family arrived to grill out and cranked up the bachata

Dinner plan A: Order in from UberEats or PedidosYa. 
Learn that neither exists in Samana and...
Dinner Plan B: Call individual restaurants directly and place an order for delivery. 
Call three with no answer and...
Dinner Plan C: Make the ramen Courtney had brought along "just in case." 
Realize there's no gas tank connected to the range (nor are there matches...) and...
Dinner Plan D: Evidently there's a lifehack for making ramen in a coffeemaker?!? 
Discover that the coffeemaker doesn't work and...

Dinner Plan E: Gourmet peanut butter and chicken salad sandwiches (separately, not together!)!

At least we had chocolate for dessert, the view from the parking lot was nice, and (for Courtney) the Chiefs are Super Bowl bound. 

Good morning, whale watching day. 

But first - those lit up bridges in the view-from-the-parking-lot photo? You can WALK across them. 

The view of the city from where we parked to begin our trek. Unexpectedly, it had more of a sleepy fishing village vibe than a commercialized beach mecca vibe. 

Once you reach the farthest island connected by the bridge system, you can head down to the beach or follow a concrete path aaaaaalllllll the way to the far end. How they poured it is beyond me. 

Finally on board the Pura Mia to go see some whales. There were about 20 people in our tour group; the COVID-19 reduced capacity was 48, if that gives you any indication of a) the vessel's size; or b) the state of Dominican tourism. 

Kim, the owner of the company we purchased tickets through, narrated the entire excursion. At the outset, we were one of many boats in the observation area, as you can see above, but while most of the others headed for the white sands and bars of Cayo Levantado after a sighting or two, we stuck it out and did a good bit of "whale waiting" between observations.

Every time the boat's engines engaged and the captain raced to position us for the best view, I knew someone must have seen "spouting," the first sign that a whale(s) has come to the surface, on the horizon. 

We tracked a pair of juvenile whales that were making anywhere from 4-16 minute dives between trips to the surface, on average. I learned that humpbacks can stay under for a maximum of 40 minutes, among many other factoids. Even so, there's still so much scientists don't know about humpbacks - like why this particular bay - that testifies to the majesty of God's creation. 

A tail lob can be indicative of a longer dive ahead. 

(If you're yet to see anything in my non-zoomed-in photos, check out professional images from our whale watch on the Whale Samana Facebook page.)

At the end of the journey, Kim thanked us for doing our part to demonstrate that studying and learning about whales > hunting them and helping a small town sustain its economy. Hadn't thought of it in those terms!

Both of us were grateful to be back on land after what turned out to be about a 4 hr. excursion. We had tentatively planned on a waterfall hike en route to the next leg of our adventure, but we were tired and hungry and a looming curfew would have forced us to rush down and back. Next time! Nevertheless, at the insistence of several other missionaries (who didn't really have to twist our arms all that hard), we finagled our Tuesday schedules so as to stay a 2nd night in another town along the opposite edge of the peninsula, Playa Bonita. No regrets. 

Spotted on our FIVE MINUTE WALK to the beach from our Playa Bonita Airbnb. 

Storms in the wee hours of Tuesday morning didn't derail our plans for a morning beach walk. It cleared up nicely, and the lingering moisture in the air even produced a rainbow. 

Lunch with a view between meetings. 

Jugo de piña

I feel somehow more connected to the island every time I explore a new part of it. I have done LOTS of driving the past few days, though, which is probably going to continue since I'm due to renew my residency in the capital any day now...

Until next time, blessings!