Every new year in the Turks & Caicos brings with it a treasured tradition as North Atlantic humpback whales begin their annual migration from the north to the warmer waters of the Silver Banks off the Dominican Republic.
And lucky for us, their journey takes them right past our islands, giving residents and tourists in the Turks & Caicos a front-row seat to their migration as they glide gracefully through our waters before reaching their final destination to their breeding grounds.
Turks & Caicos Whale Watching Season
The Turks & Caicos whale watching season normally begins in early January and runs through April. And whales travel in pods, so if you see one, you’re bound to see more in their company.
Simply catching a glimpse of these giant marine mammals from a boat is breathtaking as it is, especially if you have the good fortune to see one breach (or “jump” from the water). But there’s potential for even closer encounters, from snorkelling in the sea with them (from a safe distance) to scuba diving beside or below them.
No two whale seasons are the same, but the Turks & Caicos have experienced an abundance of whale activity in recent years. And regardless of the season, you’re all but guaranteed to catch a glimpse of the whales if you book a dedicated whale watching charter from one of the ideal locations for Turks & Caicos whale watching.
Where to See Whales in Turks & Caicos
Your chances of a whale sighting depend greatly on where you look. By far the best places to see the humpback whales up close and personal are the quiet islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay due to their location along the Columbus Passage, a direct route for the whale migration. On Grand Turk and Salt Cay, the whales pass so close to the islands that it’s possible to see them from shore. Your best chances, however, are booking a whale watching tour and getting out on the water.
But whale sightings aren’t uncommon off the Caicos Islands (the chain of islands that includes the main island of Providenciales) — you just have to travel a little farther by boat to find them.
Getting to Grand Turk & Salt Cay
Various tour companies on Providenciales offer whale watching excursions, and there’s always a chance of spotting humpbacks while out on a snorkelling or scuba diving tour beyond the reef in the height of whale season. But your best chance of ticking a humpback whale sighting off your bucket list is heading to Grand Turk or Salt Cay.
Turks & Caicos airlines interCaribbean and Caicos Express Airways offer daily flights to Grand Turk and multiple flights every week to Salt Cay.
Whale Watching Etiquette
At The Strand, we know how fortunate we are to call the Turks & Caicos home. We never take for granted the unique opportunity we have to call the ocean our backyard, to be able to see and swim with dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat, and for four months out of the year, to see humpback whales on their migration to their breeding grounds. That being said, we believe strongly in a peaceful co-existence with the marine life here, and that means showing respect for them.
If you’re operating your own private vessel and see whales in the water, be mindful to approach them slowly, carefully and quietly. And always maintain a respectful distance so as not to stress the whales. It’s also important not to chase them, and always approach whales moving parallel to them rather than head-on as this may cause them to feel that they’re being chased.
If an opportunity arises to get in the water with the whales, please maintain a safe distance and remember that whales are much larger than you and your boat. At the end of the day, humpback whales are wild animals — so it’s important to exercise extreme caution to avoid injury. Let your whale encounter be on the whale’s terms to get the most out of your experience.
Whale watching is just one of the many perks of living in the Turks & Caicos. Want to learn more about the island lifestyle? Get in touch to find out what makes these islands so special and how to plant roots of your own in the Turks & Caicos.