Turks & Caicos Aggressor II - Humpback Whales Snorkeling Charters - Silver Banks

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Aggressor Adventures

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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Report – Dominican Republic Jan 26 – Feb 2, 2013

We are all very excited about the prospect of our first whale charter this week and after arriving in Puerto Plata, early on Saturday morning we soon had the boat ready to go out to the Silver Bank.

At 4 pm at Ocean World Marina, we received our first whale watching guests of the season – Ginny & Keith, Ruth and Annabel from the UK, Joan from Canada, Glenn & Clare and Mary from the US, Francois from Monaco and Andre from Brazil.

With water temperatures of 79 degrees we did not find the water too chilly and a 3mm suit was sufficient to keep us warm, that and the excitement of being to the water with a humpback whale of course. The wind was chilly however and a windbreaker was a definite advantage on the chase boat.

Adults were in abundance. Males chasing females, trying to prove that they were the one to mate with and the show that we saw involved pec slapping, tail lobbing and breaching, but at the end of it all we had the opportunity to see the beginnings of a valentine. Andre and Mary were as surprised as I was when a female spy hopped just a few feet away from them. Reacting to the actions of our snorkelers the female would copy any movements that they made, including reaching out arm to pec.

A couple of resting adults made for a great in water encounter. Remaining still, at depth, for up to 14 – 16 minutes before coming up close to the snorkelers to take a breath before returning to their slumber.

Always a delight to see, a mother and calf provided more great in-water entertainment. As the calf was encouraged to move up to the surface, being taught when to breathe by the mother. In taking that breath the calf also swam right around our group of guests, getting more playful with every cycle. As the time progresses we waited with anticipation for mother and calf to surface and slowly they did just that. Mother and calf rose to the top of the water column and paused for a fraction of a moment before moving away. The calf rolled over the rostrum of the mother in a very exuberant gesture. Watching a calf play is always a joyful experience.

The topside encounters were awesome as usual. With the few rain showers we encountered spy hopping. A male checked out the change in weather whilst a calf tried to copy, but didn’t quite manage it trying to lift its tail and rostrum at the same time.

The rowdy groups swept under the boats enabling the onlookers to get some great photos without even getting in the water. It was a great first week of whales and we are looking forward to the small calves growing and becoming more confident and spending more time with us in the water.

Your crew this week was Captain Amanda, Rob, Cole, Phil, Leigh and Josie. Join us for more whale tales next week.

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Humpback Whales and a Whale Shark!
Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log February 2 – 9, 2013

Water Temperature: 76 - 78˚
Thermal protection: 3 – 5 mm, windbreaker suggested
Visibility: 30 – 80ft

For guests Jon & Nic, Gabriele & Matt, Pedro, Miguel, Christian, Stephan, Jacques & Marleen, Shigemitsu, Makiko, Emiko, Yutaka, Katsuyuki, Masato & Fumie the week whale watching expedition began at 16:00 Saturday afternoon. After being welcomed on board guests were given a presentation by the Captain and fed a 3 course meal.

The vessel set sail from Ocean World Marina for the overnight journey whilst guests slept. The journey was calm and we entered the banks shortly after sunrise the following day. After breakfast guests relaxed on the sun deck watching a mother, calf and escort off the port side, whilst crew set up the chase boats and prepared for that afternoons first whale watching excursion.

The daily routine during an excursion is simple but effective; a full breakfast followed by a morning whale watching trip, back to the vessel for a lunchtime hearty buffet, out again for an afternoon trip and back by 17:30 for a hot shower and cocktails whilst watching sunset whales, not forgetting an evening 3 course meal of course!

Mon 3 Feb (courtesy of Jon & Nic, guest Loggers this week!)
This morning the guests set out for their first full day on the water. We were lucky enough to spot a mother and calf being followed by an escort. We shadowed at a distance at first, and eventually we found ourselves in the middle of a cetacean love-triangle. The whales swam around our launch and we realized that the mother was using the launch as a barricade to keep off the unwanted attentions of her new suitor. After a number of guests inadvertently launched themselves into the water trying to see the whales below the surface we decided to all hang off the boat as the new suitor vainly attempted to impress the object of his attentions. We were treated to the sight of the 3 magnificent creatures circling the boat as we watched in awe, at times they seemed close enough to touch, it was an astounding first encounter. After this encounter we found a calf that was practicing being all grown up by tail slapping and breaching. By the way, I haven’t mentioned the boring stuff like the weather: it was warm and a bit windy. It also might have rained and the whales decided to spy-hop just in time to hear a very scientific explanation about salinity and stuff.

Oh, and finally the guests all got to swim with a whale shark. Not quite as scary as swimming with a shark, but it has shark in the name so many of them felt the need to avoid hanging around the large mouth!


Tue 4 Feb (again, courtesy of guest Loggers Jon & Nic!)
So by today all the guests knew the brief. Not so many fell overboard without actually being invited first, and the whales played their part by providing excellent entertainment. We were lucky enough to find a Valentine pair who was getting in the mood even though it’s not yet Feb 14th. Our intrepid host dropped into the water and attracted the love-struck female’s attention. We were on for a once in a lifetime experience until a bunch of rowdies turned up, spoiling the love-fest and competing for the lady’s attention. Before we knew it, there were whales all around us, coming from every direction, and then the spell was broken and we were left hanging.

In the afternoon we popped over to the nursery to check out what was happening with the minors. Our luck was in as one of the calves was rather inquisitive and came to check us out as we hung in the water. Unfortunately he was quickly disciplined by his mother and she dragged him off into the murk before we had more time to play,

One of the boats found a playful calf who was as interested in us as we were in them. We all hung out for a while before Mum decided it was time to move on. But that wasn’t before we were entertained with some calf breaches and tail slaps, just to get those muscles working.

All in all, it was a great second week. We’ve seen some great topside action with some incredible rowdy action, watching multiple fully grown humpback whales in pursuit of a female, plowing through the banks really does make for a very dynamic and invigorating scene! And of course gives fabulous opportunities for photographs. We’ve also had a variety of different mother and calf encounters, with some extremely tender moments of very young calves playing and rolling around on mum’s nose. Really special this week has been the dynamic displays of strength, with breaching both near and far of both adults and calves, not to mention lobbing, spyhopping and slapping.

Your crew this week was Amanda, Rob, Phil, Leigh, Cole and Josie. Join us for more adventures next week!

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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Report Feb 9 – 16, 2013

The third week of our whale charters brought another delightful crossing out to the Silver Banks and by 8 am we were seeing our first humpback whales of the week. As we manoeuvred our way through the coral heads that form the nursery area we were met with mothers and their calves, along with breaching and travelling humpback whales - and that was before we even moored the yacht.

Water temperatures remain at 78 degrees and a 3mm wetsuit is sufficient for most.

Joining us for a week of whale watching were Joan, Grace, Lisa, Franziska & Claudia, Tom & Lou, Juergen, Peter, Johnny, Dennis, Mario & Christian.

The afternoon brought a plethora of rowdy groups rampaging around the banks. Males pursued females that fought for the right to mate. The biggest and the fastest is usually the successful animal and they posture and fight to prove their case.

The wind picked up on Monday morning, but that did not detract from the great mother and calf encounter that we shared in the afternoon. For over 15 minutes the mother would rest mid-water column whilst the calf came up to the surface every three to four minutes and circled close to the group. When the mother finally came up for breath she moved slowly with the calf very close and provided some great photo and video opportunities.

The piece de resistance for Tuesday was a single male of mature years, should we say, as evidenced by the scars covering his body. You could sense that there could be many stories told. The start of the encounter was thrilling for all as the humpback moved underneath the chase boat an gently moved it a little way out of the water. He would then proceed to hover mid water head down with his fluke partially out of the water – and there he would stay before swimming around the group in the water. The encounter changed as we shared the encounter between all of our guests. The humpback would surface very close to the snorkelers, remain for a little while and dive deep, almost out of sight, only then to gently float to the surface and repeat the entire action. This continued for over 90 minutes and on occasion during his time at the surface he would roll, swim toward us and watch us as he swam past. Only a smaller member of the species, he displayed great awareness of his body as he avoided any contact with the swimmers when he could easily have touched them, but he was curious enough to remain with us for such a wonderful period of time.

Wednesday was a day packed with encounters of all kinds. Starting with a rowdy group that provided great topside action as we moved around the banks. On the other side of the bank our other group was enjoying the end results of a rowdy group – a valentine encounter. Spyhopping mixed with a little languid pectoral and tail slapping. Up close and personal both whales and humans, everyone managed to get in and experience these two whales as they danced their way toward mating. The afternoon brought us two whales, one of whom, a female, we had seen at least twice this week. This time though she was willing to let us in the water with her. Moving very slowly she would then stop and let us get join her. She would rest for some time before coming up very close to and sometimes underneath the group and this continued for at least an hour. Late afternoon saw both groups in the water with a very settled mother and calf. The mother would barely move as she came to the surface to breathe and we continued to enjoy her and her calf.

Thursday brought with it the biggest rowdy group that I have seen – as we charged around the banks at a speed of around 18 kts we struggled sometime to even keep up with the whales. They completely disregarded us as they proved their worth to the high speed female at the head of the freight train, which is exactly what it looked like from a distance. Fifteen whales, at one point, barged into each other, head lobbed, tail slapped and tried to interrupt the breathing cycle of others just to show the female that their offspring would be big, strong and healthy. Bubbles and whales surrounded the boat. Exhausted from all the activity and with cameras hot from the action, we headed into lunch, to regroup for the afternoon. Not surprisingly there were a few resting whales in the afternoon and two were comfortable to allow us to spend some time in the water with them.

The most delightful thing about this encounter was the fact that one of the humpbacks rested upright with its rostrum about ten feet from the surface and there it would remain motionless for about 15 minutes before coming to the surface to breathe and returning to the same position. It was a beautiful sight. This lasted until another group of adults clearly decided that rest time was over and two whales just 50 feet away from our snorkelers started pounding the surface of the ocean with their flukes. This had the effect of waking all resting humpbacks and leaving our guests in awe of the power used to achieve this.

It was an awesome display and end to the week, and one that will be difficult to forget.

Joining me as crew this week were 2nd Captain James, Engineer Rob, Video Pro Cole, Chef Phil and Stewardess Rosy.

I am looking forward to another great week of whales next week.

Captain Amanda

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Turks & Caicos II Captain’s Report Feb 16 -23, 2013 – Silver Banks, DR

A very excited group boarded on Saturday evening, ready to see some whale action. 78 degree water temperature greeted us in the Banks after a happily uneventful crossing. 3mm wetsuits are still order of the day and kept most of our snorkelers toasty.

Snorkelling with the humpback whales this week were Mack & Shanti, Rene & Liliane, Irina & Andrin, Rene, Peter, Bernd, Chuck & Kate, Brian & Cyndy, Gary, Beth, Leslie & David and for her second week this season Jacqueline.

As we approached the mooring area we felt welcomed by the humpbacks as they moved around the Bank displaying many of the behaviours that we are looking forward to seeing in more depth

Our first trip out did not take us far from the mooring area and as the wind died down leaving us calm flat seas we were surrounded by whales both adult and calf. Above the sound of the engines we could hear a lone male singing. We cut the engine, knowing that with the sound so clearly heard above the surface, that this mammal was very close. A quick swim around brought us right over the top of him. As he boomed out his song we could feel it vibrate through to our very core.

The following morning we were in the water for a very short time as a couple of resting adults moved around. We watched them for a couple of minutes before they moved on again. Our afternoon however allowed us into the water with a very receptive mother and calf. This was a pair that we saw last week with a very mellow escort – today they were alone.

The mother slept for about 18 minutes whilst the calf surfaced every five minutes and swam close to the snorkelers, curious of the strange creatures that float on the surface. The mother has a mark on her pectoral fin that looks like the letters ‘WT’, and it was this mark that distinguishes her as one of the mothers that we swam with a couple of years ago with another of her calves. Maybe this explains why she is so calm and accepting of our scrutiny.

With the weather a little on the windy side on Wednesday it was the perfect day for topside activity and what some great displays we had. Five males followed a female, fighting to show their superiority. Head lunges and tail slaps helped the males prove their strength so that they might be the one to mate with the female. Bubbles were blown to shield the female from the eyes of challengers and as we left them they had slowed down for a short while from their furious pace.

A mother and calf, escorted by a male provided a great afternoon’s entertainment. Nicknamed “Pickle”, the calf repeatedly breached for a solid hour. Building stamina for the trip home ahead and also learning to one day become a rowdy male this small whale would breach whilst the mother and the escort slapped their pectoral fins on the surface of the water. The encounter ended as another adult entered the scene and changed the dynamic of the group and leading the mother and calf to move away.

The mother and calf that we swam with on Wednesday were quite extraordinary. At one point the mother lay as if suspended on her back, all her vented pleats on display and she stayed like this for a few minutes before returning to the more traditional way of sleeping. The calf was playful and was happy to swim up close to the snorkelers. When the mother rose to breathe she spent a short while at the surface before slowly sinking back to hang mid water column with rostrum at the greatest depth and her fluke just fifteen feet from the surface. Slowly she would settle back down with the calf just beneath her.

Thursday dawned with great anticipation of our final day of whale watching and we were not disappointed. The morning filled the banks with active adults and mothers and calves, escorted by one or more males. So as the afternoon came we were delighted to discover that, at least to begin with, everything had calmed down. Sleeping males were one of our first encounters. For 15 minutes the two adult humpbacks would snooze in about forty feet of water – barely visible from the surface. Then, very slowly, they would begin to rise until they reached the surface to breathe and sink again with a stroke of their fluke back to their slumber. We, at that point, were right where they close to surface and delighted in the proximity that they allowed us.

What we were not expecting that these two bedmates would turn into rivals as a mother with her calf approached. Suddenly the two male adults were fighting with each other to prove their worth to the mother. She also had to deal with an increasingly playful calf, which was in a small way imitating some of the activities displayed by the rowdy males.

In another quarter of the Bank a group of our snorkelers spent some time in the water with a mother and calf that was not being plagued by males. The humans that had come to watch fascinated her playful calf and the little one spent more time at the surface once interacting with our guests. Coming very close it was a delight or both photographers, videographers and those who were just gathering wonderful memories.

Another great week enjoyed with another great group of people. The helm will be handed over to Captain James for the next two weeks who is keen to show our next guests what humpback whale watching in the Silver Bank is all about, check in next week to see what adventures he and the crew have.

Sharing our whale watching this week were crew members James, Rob, Cole, Phil and Rosy.

Captain Amanda.

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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Report Feb 23 – Mar 2, 2013 – Silver Banks

Water Temperature: 77 – 80 F
Air Temperature: High 70’s, Low 80’s
Exposure Suit Recommendation: 3mm

Greetings from Turks and Caicos Aggressor! Our guests this whale charter season include: Alfred & Heidi, Norbert & Monika, Stefanie & Andreas, Josef & Monika, Marina, Renate, Stefan & Ira, Manfred & Margit, Sabine & Werner, Birgit and Gerald.

Guests arrived in the early evening to Ocean World Marina of the Dominican Republic. Snacks and drinks were served on the sundeck as we started to unpack our snorkeling equipment for the upcoming trip. After we all settled in, dinner was served – a fresh green salad with walnuts and sundried cranberries, pan seared chicken with a delicious mushroom ragout, roast potatoes and steamed broccoli. To finish off a mouthwatering chocolate brownie served with ice cream and fruit coulis. Master Chef, Phil, once again wowed guests with this fantastic feast! We left port just after midnight to make the crossing to Silver Banks.

As we arrived Sunday morning, the crew lowered the chase boats, named Conqueror and Predator, into the water and got things prepared for our first outing, that afternoon. Cole gave an informative briefing to get folks ready for our in-water and surface encounters. We had several surface encounters, which really built up the excitement for what was surely to come. One group, on Conqueror, managed to get into the water with a mother and calf, only to have the calf come up and breach in front of them. Marina and Jo saw the action up close!! Whale cocktail hour was served when we got back to the mother ship. Cole prepared her famous “Cuba Libre”, which set everyone off to dinner with relaxed smiles on their faces. Everyone retired early, recouping after a day of travel and getting for our first full day out with the whales.

Monday morning at the office, our office clothes were wet suits. We spent some of our morning expedition following Sleepers. One of the other boats were generous enough to radio over to us, and invite us to share a great in water encounter with a mother and calf. They had been with them for a few hours that morning. Leigh, our guide, got into the water first, to locate exactly where her and baby lay below. Once located, Leigh gave the whale hand signal and motioned for people to get in. The group got into position and enjoyed a close encounter. Mother may have got a bit spooked and flicked her tail and moved further away, between the coral heads, taking calf with her. Leigh kept up with them, and James, the driver, picked the group up and rejoined Leigh in the water. Calf’s breathing cycles were around 4mins, so when coming up to breath and circle around, she would come really close to the group, inquisitive as to what and who we were. After lunch Predator headed to the nursery, where sometimes we can find mother and calves hiding around the shallow coral heads. Conqueror found a mother and calf and were able to get into the water. Cole, who was driving, got some excellent video footage of the group in the water, and the calf breaching right in-front of them. WOW!!!! We ended the afternoon with guests relaxing in the warm sundeck Jacuzzi, while Lucie served delicious Pink Drink cocktails.

The next day Cole’s group were in the water with a mother and calf. The group floated on the surface watching these majestic mammals gracefully dance around each other. The behaviour of these creatures never seizes to amaze us. Mother all calm and relaxed one minute, and the next, she breached right in front of the group, giving an eye opening display and of course huge splash!! Not only once, but over and over again. Just one flick of the tail and out of the water she can haul her huge body. The other group had a whole afternoon with a very accommodating mother and calf. They first watched from a distance as mother lay sleeping below, with calf coming up every few minutes, circling in front of her. As the afternoon progressed the group managed to get closer and closer to the pair.

Wednesday came and Conqueror were drawn down to the SE by a tail splash, as they neared this turned into tail lobbing close to the boat, which then developed into breaching. Four adults were moving along. One kept bringing her fluke up, then diving deep and then breaching, only 20m from the boat. This pattern continued which made for some awesome photos.

After an excellent lunch we headed out. It didn’t take long before we were in the water. We spotted a calf on the surface that was doing semi circles on the surface, while breathing, then heading back down. Timing the breath cycles, we waited for mom to come up, Leigh got ready to jump in once they both went down. She soon signaled for the group to join her and got everyone in position. Once we entered the water the calf slowly came near us. Laying on the surface we could see the mother look at us while her calf swam near, then she closed her eyes again and slowly sank under the surface of the water to about 10 feet, continuing to sleep. As we made a single line in the water, the calf would swim very close to the group. He would spy hop, roll on its back, hang upside down. Very playful indeed. Even when the mother woke up, she only moved a very short distance then relaxed again. While enjoying this experience several times it looked like the mother was pushing the calf towards us. Almost like she was saying, please take care of this one so I can rest. It was an amazing day!!!

Well, the whales certainly left the best till last….. On Thursday the winds had died down and the sky was blue. Sun was out and another day awaited us. During the morning we spent some time tracking a mother and calf. Before 9am, we managed to get into the water for a brief ‘hello’, but mom was a bit nervous and swam away. Lucie, our driver on Conqueror, decided to put a few people in at a time, so we waited till mother had settled and tried again. We managed to spend a bit more time with her, but again she swam off, so we waved goodbye and let her go. Moving on, we saw some tail lobbing and peck slapping so headed in that direction. Some entertaining surface stuff made for good video and photos. After the mother and calf visit, spirits were high and we slowly drove on looking out for more whales. We came upon some ‘sleepers’. We managed to get into the water a few times, watching them sleep below. We timed their breathing cycles at approximately 10minutes, so each cycle the 2 adults surfaced within a meter or 2 from our snorklers.

Our last afternoon, we nicknamed ‘baby breaching’ afternoon. There were numerous pairs of mother and calves about, and the calves put on a great show for the boats. Repeatedly breaching, rolling over moms’ rostrum, flopping over with tail in the air….just very entertaining!!
We headed back in, where crew lifted the chase boats onto the main vessel, while guests enjoyed their sundowner cocktails. Cole had been working hard this week putting a spectacular video together, which was enjoyed by all after dinner. She got a roaring applause from all. Thanks Cole!!!

Friday morning, James started the engines and we got underway, heading back towards Ocean World Marina. Cole and Leigh were up on the bow pointing out coral heads, while the guest enjoyed their morning coffee on the sundeck, saying farewell goodbyes to the whales, still visible around us. Friday evening we all got together for a wine and cheese party to remise the week gone by.

Your crew: James, Lucie, Cole, Leigh, Phil and Rosie

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Turks & Caicos Aggressor Captain’s Report March 2 – 9, 2013 – Silver Banks

Water Temperature: 77 – 80 F
Air Temperature: High 70’s, Low 80’s
Exposure Suit Recommendation: 3mm

Greetings from Turks and Caicos Aggressor! Joining us this week for a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience to snorkel with Humpback Whales were Claudia & Ewald, Alexander & Ursula, Markus & Silvia, Alexander, Gerald, Alexandra & Gunter, Ines, Heinz, Andreas and Micha.

Guests boarded the TCA II at Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic on Saturday for our trip east to the Silver Banks. Every year the North Atlantic Humpback Whales migrate south to the Silver Banks to breed and the following year give birth to their calves. The Turks & Caicos Aggressor is one of three operations that are licensed by the Dominican Republic Government to operate in the Silver Banks.

We arrived in the Silver Banks on Sunday morning, and the first order of business was to get the two chase boats into the water. It’s amazing to be in the Silver Banks; everywhere we looked there were Humpback Whales. Guests relaxed on the sundeck, cameras already snapping away. A rowdy bunch of males, we counted 5 adults, came very close to the main vessel. Unfortunately due to some winds and bumpy seas, we were unable to take guests out in the chase boats on Sunday afternoon, but with whale activity so close to the boat; guests were able to see these creatures from the main vessel.

Monday morning arrived. After a filling breakfast we loaded the boats and were ready to see the whales by 8:30 am. We soon spotted a pair of adults so followed them for a while. We then quickly picked up a mother, a calf and an escort. The mother was moving as well, so we headed towards some other blows. This turned out to be a male and female, who were very relaxed and played around close to the boat, making for some good photos. The female lifted her fluke right in front of the boat, showing off herself. Gerald, a guest from Germany, got some excellent top side photos. As the pair were so relaxed, Lucie, the driver, decided to get the people in the water with the pair. WOW, WOW, WOW!!! Back to the boat for BBQ lunch, yummy!!

The afternoon went well with a singing whale that could be heard from the chase boat. Guests got their snorkel, masks and fins ready and jumped in close to a coral head. There was a huge school of blue chromis clearly visible as the guest free dived down to hear the singing. After that we moved on and started tracking a mother, calf and escort. The baby breached, which wowed the onlookers. Back on board we enjoyed cocktails on the sundeck while watching the sunset.

Tuesday, the sun was shining through the clouds and the whale blows were around the boat, tempting us into the surrounding area. As we left the main vessel, we spotted a mother and calf. She looked like quite a young mother, around 11m with no scarring around her dorsal fin. As we followed for a while, we noted another whale surface between us and the boat…. an escort. This is a male whale trying hard to win the female over, for mating purposes. This escort was unusually relaxed, while the mother and calf logged on the surface.

After a while, we decide to enter the water, holding onto the side of the boat. As soon as we entered, the calf came straight up to us, very inquisitive indeed. The calf and mother swam around the boat, as we looked on. When they swam off, we jumped back in the boat. The escort moved the mother on and we followed. We stayed with them for most of the morning, because by the end of the morning we had 2 challengers join the group. The males put on quite a show for us, with bubble streaming and pec slapping, all this to win the affection of the female. The mother also showed her protective nature, by slip steaming with calf and moving on very quickly away from the rowdy males. At one point the challenger came right at the boat, bubble streaming us and lobbing its tail. During this whole episode, the calf was very playful with mum, rolling over her rostrum and throwing its tail in the air. After a delicious lunch of chicken, beef and fish tacos we headed back out for the afternoon. We found a mother and calf and had a wonderful in water encounter with them.

Wednesday we had the start of a Valentine Dance. We were following 2 adults for a while, and the tell tale which caught our attention was when the male spy hopped. They were also moving very slowing and swimming over each other. Lucie, our guide, dropped into the water and free dived down, doing a pirouette as she came up to the surface. This is done to get the females attention and also see if she would imitate Lucies’ movement. She came towards Lucie, so we dropped the other snorkelers into the water. They had a superb in water encounter watching the 2 adults dancing around each other. They moved on a bit, some quickly jumped back into the boat and followed next to them. The male kept on rolling over on his side, his pec fins sticking out of the water, presenting his body to the female. He did this a few times, which got her attention. She spy hopped, their bodies close. She then became interested in the boat. She circled us, coming so close to the boat; we had some guests with their faces in the water watching the action. After spending an hour with them, the two swam off a bit further. We headed back to the main vessel, spirits high. Seeing two huge whales doing a Valentine Dance really is a special thing. An evening of BBQ on the sundeck was a great way to end a fabulous day!!

Last day with the whales was an exciting one. We had a male singer. We threw the hydrophone into the water and the singing was so loud. One of the boats had a group in the water with the singer. The whale was staying down around 25mins, so when he came up, we switched the groups out, so all had an opportunity to not only hear, but feel the vibrating singing in the water. We also had a group of rowdy males, which made for a good topside show.

Leaving the Silver Bank, we waved goodbye to the whales and enjoyed a relaxing day on the sundeck, as the boat was heading back for the daytime crossing to Ocean World Marina. We arrived safely and had the cheese and wine party to look forward to. A last chance to reminisce the great week of whale watching and superb encounters!! Thanks to all for joining us!

Your crew: James, Lucie, Cole, Leigh, Phil and Rosie

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Turks & Caicos Aggressor Captain’s Report March 9 – 16, 2013
Silver Banks – Dominican Republic

Water Temperature: 77 – 80 F
Air Temperature: High 70’s, Low 80’s
Exposure Suit Recommendation: 3mm

It seems our experiences with the Humpback Whales get better with each expedition we have at the Silver Banks. The wind and seas conditions made for a little bouncy ride out to the Silver Banks, however, our guests, Manfred & Sabine, Chiara & John, Susan, Julie, Andreas, Hiroshi, Pete & Beryl, Joanne & Paul, Alli, Lin, JoanieMac, Lynda and David & Crystal were ready and everyone did excellent on the ride.

Our water temperature is still around the 79 degrees and because of the amount of time we are in the water a full 3 or 5mm wet suit is recommended. A light waterproof windbreaker to help protect you from the light water spray and wind makes it very conformable for you while riding in the chase boats.

Sunday morning the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II (TCA II) arrived at the Silver Bank. Making our way to our weekly mooring, our guest could easily see whales all around the area. After lunch and our briefings we headed out for the first expedition of the trip. The afternoon experience took us very near mother and calf, sleepers, and even a couple of rowdy males, but on this afternoon we only had the chance to get in the water for a short while with mother and calf.

Monday we had a very eventful day and one that everyone will remember. Despite the challenging visibility, we managed to track a mother and calf and enter the water. The mother was very relaxed, even with the calf being a bit playful, which was great to experience in the water. We shared the whales with 3 other boats, each rotating out and taking a lunch break in-between. This went on for hours, which made for a fantastic in water encounter. Late afternoon was approaching and the sun was getting lower in the sky. Everyone was thrilled with the day’s encounters, all chatting and enjoying the sun on their backs while snacking on fresh fruit and snacks. Conqueror, one of our chase boats, radioed over and invited us to join them for a ‘Valentine’s Dance’. We were all honored to witness some beautiful behaviors happening both directly under and around the boats, a valentine & escort (female & suitor) in a slow an elegant dance. The repeated synchronized raising of the rostrums, with bodies being presented to each other, enthralled guests and crew alike. Occasionally another male suitor would disrupt their play (perhaps a jealous hopeful?) and the mood with change a little toward rowdy behaviors, however he would soon swim off and the romance would continue. Guests were able to capture some amazing shots, in the water and on the chase boats.

Tuesday morning Conqueror located a mother and calf. The mother had a very distinctive scar on her dorsal fin. They settled very quickly and we were able to slide into the water, ensuring we did this quietly, so not to disturb the mother and spook her away. After a long journey to the Silver Bank and giving birth, mother must have been exhausted and was happy to find some babysitters to look after her playful calf. This encounter was a bit different, instead of the calf doing usual breath cycles and circling around the mother’s rostrum, she stayed at the surface for long periods and seemed quite curious of our snorkeling group. She came closer and closer, which gave great opportunity for some amazing photos and videos. As we are all about sharing here on the T&C Aggressor II we radioed over to our other chase boat Predator and welcomed them to join us. This encounter lasted most of the morning and Conqueror was very pleased to find this same mother and calf pair to enjoy the afternoon with. That afternoon Predator’s guest requested some topside action and that is just what they got! A mother and calf entertained us for almost 45 minutes with breaching, peck slapping and tail lobbing. Two very happy groups we had returning to the boat to enjoy some of Shawn’s famous mojitos and some of chef Phil’s wonderful cuisine.

As the week went on, and the visibility got better with each day, Wednesday was again a day for the memory books. Early in the morning, Predator tracked a mother, calf and escort. They were located in the nursery and didn’t seem to want to settle down right away, instead moving in and around the many coral heads. The escort decided to take off and leave the mother and calf in peace. As soon as mama was able to shake the escort she decided that she needed a break and rolled right over onto her back curled up for a morning nap. It was quite the experience for our guests and crew to watch the comforting relationship between a mother and baby in this particular position. At one point, with the mother still on her back her baby swam over her nose and the mother gently raised both of her pectoral fins and caressed her baby’s face. This was a beautiful scene for all that witnessed the unconditional love of a mother and baby humpback whale. She only turned over to come up to take a breath and then went back sleep on her back while baby played with both Predator and Conqueror guests. The afternoon brought exercise class for a baby while it was practiced its tail slapping and lobbing. Guests wrapped up the day with cocktails and a gorgeous sunset over the Silver Banks.

Thursday seemed like ‘Grand Central Station’. There were so many whales and they were all headed somewhere, which brought for some exciting top action. Conqueror tracked a mother and calf that had 3 rowdy males after her. She seemed to feel that our chase boat was a bit of protection for her and her calf and the males did not like that at all!! There was a lot of bubble blowing in our direction from the males but mama and baby stayed with us to entertain us with some tail slapping and a couple breaches from baby. Predator ended their day with an in water encounter with a mother and calf and escort. At one time 2 other males wanted to join in the fun therefore having 5 whales in the water with Predator’s guests. What a fantastic way to end a week in the water!

We had a smooth crossing back to into the Ocean World Marina and were greeted by rain in Puerto Plata. All enjoyed a wine and cheese party and got to a last chance to reminisce about the wonderful week of whale watching and in and out of water encounters.

Thank you for joining us on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II in the Dominican Republic.
Your crew: Amanda, Rob, Leigh, Phil, Carlos and Shawn
 
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Turks & Caicos Captain’s Report March 16 – 23, 2013
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

Water Temperature: 77-80 F
Air Temperature: High 70’s, Low 80’s
Exposure Suit Recommendation: 3mm

This week brought the luck of the Irish as well as a very special 70th birthday for one of our guests, Joyce. The boat was taken over for a week of Humpback whale watching for Joyce’s family to both enjoy whales in the Silver Banks as well as celebrate the birthday of this very special lady who has a passion for whales. Our guests this week included Joyce and Bob, John and BC, Michelle and Jesse, Joan and Don, Pat, George and Pat, Donna and Chris, Jean and Amanda.

We arrived to the Silver Banks on Sunday morning greeted by numerous whales breaching and welcoming us for a wonderful week ahead. After lunch and our briefing we headed out for our first expedition of the trip. Sunday seemed like a quiet day with not a lot of whale sightings but ended with happy guests with some wonderful encounters to start the trip. Predator’s boat experienced a couple mothers with calves as well as escorts. One of the escorts thought of our boat Predator as a challenger and gave it some tail slapping and lobbing which was an exciting way to start the trip. As the day was coming to an end Conqueror tracked a mother and calf and got in the water to find a small calf that wanted to see what these strange human things were. What a nice way for our guests to experience their first time in the water with humpback whales.

Monday morning brought a lot more activity around the Silver Banks. Conqueror tracked a mother and calf in the nursery area. Once she found a nice place to settle for a rest we had a fantastic encounter that lasted almost an hour and a half. We called over to Predator, to share in the in water fun with the whales. The sea was quite rough today so a number of guests were tired and decided to enjoy the whale show from our mother vessel. The afternoon trip out brought another encounter with a mother and calf and some nice top side action with tail slapping and lobbing. On trip back to the Aggressor, Predator encountered a mother, calf and escort and then joined by 2 other challengers that gave some great excitement under the water around our boat.

Over the next couple days we experienced some great top side action with lots of tail slapping, breaching and tail lobbing competitions. The whales this week had a lot of energy and didn’t seem to want to settle all that much but gave us great shows on the surface! Two days in a row we tracked a mother whom we named ‘Minnie’ because of her distinctively round dorsal fin, which reminded our group of Minnie Mouse. On the first day with Minnie and her calf, they had an escort, but two challengers wanted to cut in on the fun. The challengers were tail slapping in the direction of our chase boat and threw a couple slaps right at one of our guests, Chris!! We think they thought he was another challenger getting in the way of their prize Minnie and baby. Mother and calf were very playful on the surface with baby twisting and turning about. At one point the escort swam very quickly underneath us and off he went to get away from these crazy humans that were checking out his woman. The second day with Minnie and her calf she was very calm rolling over taking naps on her back. Calf was very playful and inquisitive and wanted play with the escort. I think he wanted to get a man’s point of view about some things before heading back to be with mom. A little while later baby was settled, sleeping on and hanging out on the surface to allow Dave and George to enjoy some quality time in water time with Minnie and her calf.

Thursday we made the most of the time in the mother vessel we enjoyed some great home videos of Joyce and Bob’s many family vacation adventures. Thursday afternoon we were out on the chase boats tracking the many whales that were around. We were entertained by all the top action and Conqueror’s group encountered a rowdy group that was chasing one lone female. She must have been one popular female because the group of males grew from 4 chasing her to 6 by the time we moved on. A very high energy way to end a week of humpback whale encounters.

We had an extremely smooth trip back to the Ocean World Marina. Many enjoyed some rays on the sundeck while others caught up on sleep in their cabins during our daytime crossing. Thank you for joining us on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II for an absolutely wonderful week of whale watching and superb encounters. We the crew hope that you all had a whale of a good time!!!

Your crew: Amanda, Rob, James, Shawn, Phil and Dave









 
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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Report March 23 – 30, 2013
Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

Water Temperature: 77-80 F
Air Temperature: High 70’s, Low 80’s
Exposure Suit Recommendation: 3mm

Wind and sea conditions made for a bumpy ride out to the Silver Banks. Our guests Robert and Trudy, Adrian and Astrid, Peter and Chantal, Rob and Anita, Guido and Beata, Arie and Marjon, Ellen and Bob, Diana and Frank and Kees were happy once we were settled into the calm water and at our mooring in the banks.

The Silver Banks has a horseshoe formation of reef which gives the many Atlantic humpback whales that come to visit every year a nice calm protected area to mate, give birth and teach their young everything they need to know before making their long journey back up north to their feeding grounds. The protection also gives us a fantastic location to experience the soft water encounters with these amazing creatures.

While the crew got the chase boats in the water and we had lunch and our briefing we headed out for our first expedition of this weeks trip. Sunday afternoon was a little slow but a calf that was practicing its breaching and tail slapping gave us some great top side action to start out the week.

Some of the many encounters we had with the whales included our ‘Little Torpedo’ boy (baby whale). This little guy was with his mama and an escort but just like human little boys he was a feisty little guy and sort of a little trouble maker. He had a ‘I’m coming to get you’ look directed right at one of our guides Cole. He liked to swish his tail at our guests just to keep everyone on their fins!! Mother and escort didn’t seem to be bothered by this at all and I think she was quite happy to have us entertain her high-energy calf for her for a little while.

On Tuesday our dingy Conqueror found a singing male. They called over to our other dingy Predator to share in the solo whale concert that he was performing. When we put the hydrophone in the water it brought both goose bumps and tears to many. The sensations and vibrations that went through our chests, abdomens and even down to tingling our toes was an experience that I know our guests and crew will never forget.

We tracked a group of rowdy males that were chasing a female. They were displaying their breaching, tail slapping and lobbing skills trying to impress her. Once ‘lady love’ wanted to settle down and rest, they all did and this allowed a perfect opportunity for our group to enter the water for a couple in-water encounters. This was such an experience to be in the water with five adult humpback whales not sleeping, but just resting and chilling out, until the escort moved his girl and the group on.

A fantastic was to end the week was with an in-water experience with a mother and her calf. Both Conqueror and Predator shared and were entertained with a playful calf that liked to get close to us and swish his tail as he swam by our group. Mother would come up every 20 minutes to take a breath and then go back to sleep as happily our guest and crew babysat her calf for her while she rested. It was all smiles as Conqueror and Predator’s chase boats returned to the mother vessel for the night to enjoy chef Dave’s wonderful ‘Thanksgiving Thursday’ dinner.

A cloudy return to Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata as we all gathered for a wine and cheese party to talk and reminisce about the week’s adventures with the humpback whales in the Silver Banks.

We the crew, Amanda, James, Rob, Cole, Dave and Shawn all hope that you enjoyed your week with us on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II and with the whales in the beautiful Silver Banks of the Dominican Republic.

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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Report March 30 – April 6, 2013
Silver Banks, DR

Water Temperature: 77-80 F
Air Temperature: High 70’s, Low 80’s
Exposure Suit Recommendation: 3mm

Greetings from the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II! Our new whale watching enthusiasts this week include: Wayne, Laurie, Liz, Anthony, Karen, Claudia, Sabrina, Kim Poh, Daniel, Patrick and Karla. A big welcome for our returning guests: George, Julie, Deborah, Ruthanne, David and Julie. Guests arrived to Ocean World Marina around four in the afternoon, leisurely unpacking their snorkeling equipment and getting comfortable with their private yacht! Captain Amanda formally welcomed guests with a briefing, followed by an amazing three course meal prepared by Chef Dave. We departed Puerto Plata at eleven that night. Setting out to open seas swelled our hearts with hopes and anticipation for the week of whale watching that was ahead of us.

We made our way through the shallow reefs up to the mooring late Sunday morning. Captain Amanda prepped the guests with a briefing, providing information and guidelines for the soft water encounters to come. Lunch was served and we were off for our first afternoon. Mothers and calves were accompanied by escorts; single males looking for a bit of romance. Some of the threesomes allowed close approaches, but the escorts consistently moved the group on. In the distance we saw horizon breaches and calves practicing their pec slaps.

The wind picked up over night, leaving Monday morning rather choppy. We decided to stay in for the morning – watching educational films on a variety of whales and participating in a presentation by Captain Amanda. Slowly, the winds fell and we rejoiced. Whales skittered around the bank, teasing the chase boats with the distance exhales. Finally a few groups allowed cautious approaches, showing us their majestic beauty.

The days that followed were incredible. The topside activity consisted of more mothers and calves, some with escorts. The calves all seemed to be rather playful, staying at the surface for longer intervals while the moms slept, trying to sort out their new found abilities to breach, pec slap and tail slap. There are few things more amusing than seeing a full grown female breach in all her glory followed by her little pickle barely bouncing up and out of the water. We’ve adoringly nicknamed the breaching calves ‘bouncing pickles’. To see them lazily floating at the surface is another sight to behold. Some float on their stomachs rolling across mom’s rostrum. Others hang out on their backs, looking at their reflection in the waters surface, slowly picking up their pecs and bringing them back down. Slap, slap, slap. With a quick swish of the tail and off they go to other adventures of the young calf life.

The in water encounters with mom and calves were soul stilling experiences. Each group had hour plus long experiences. On one occasion, the mom and calf logged, or simply floated, on the surface for twenty to thirty minutes at a time. Calf cascaded over mom’s rostrum, happily swimming around her body as the snorkelers looked on. In between playing with mom and conducting his own underwater ballet, calf would come over for a closer inspection of the line of engrossed observers. Sometimes, it would be a slow approach, with an air of leisure and at others, calf would dart over, twisting and contorting its body with quick gestures of play. Seeing the fluke swoosh through and thus aerate the water is stunning. The beauty of the tail and the blue of the sea, combined with the white wash and bubbles is something few people get to experience.

One of our favorite encounters this week was with another sleeping mom and calf. They were with Amanda and Rob’s group for nearly two hours. As James and Cole’s boat pulled up to join in, they decided to move off. Luckily, they didn’t go too far and settled down right next to the mother vessel, allowing the second group to get in the water with them. Underneath the mother vessel and in the immediate area are a series of shallow to deep coral formations. The background of the coral heads really provide a level of contrast and is a marvelous setting for photos and film. The calf continued on with his playful spirit and dance. Mom came up a few times, and on one occasion quite quickly when calf ventured a bit farther away from her. The speed at which the whales can move and with so little effort is fantastic!

Even though the humpbacks are such large animals, they know where they are in the water at all times and exactly where we are as well. Of course this is a learned effort and it takes some time for the young ones to master. During a few of our encounters with the mothers and calves, mom would extended her pec fin out and under the line of snorkelers, judging distance and just what exactly we were! At one point, one of the pecs gently glanced Wayne, one of our guests. What an honor!

We headed back to the marina on Thursday night, leaving Friday for a further exploration of Puerto Plata. Some of us spent the day at the Laramar Museum, others at the cable car tour and a few even stopped at the historical fort. We all gathered on the sundeck for conversation and fellowship in the evening. Naturally, Chef Dave provided us with snacks and beverages. What an amazing week to recount with everyone! Thank you for an amazing last week!

We the crew, Amanda, James, Rob, Cole, Dave and Shawn all hope that you enjoyed your week with us on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II and with the whales in the beautiful Silver Banks of the Dominican Republic.

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