Whale-watching has become a spring ritual off Bermuda’s South Shore, the migration route for humpbacks as they travel from the Caribbean to north Atlantic feeding grounds. Between March and April, pods of humpback whales can be spotted, even from the shoreline (you may see a line of motorists pulled over to ogle the distant spouts or flukes beyond the reef line).
Found throughout the world, most humpbacks follow regular migration routes. Found throughout the world, most humpbacks follow regular migration routes. In the Atlantic, they tend to spend winters mating and calving in tropical zones, then move north to polar waters in the summer to feed. Unlike other species, they are highly acrobatic, breaching (throwing their whole bodies out of the water), swimming upside down with flippers raised in the air, or slapping the surface with their huge tails, called flukes. Scientists believe these may all be forms of communication between pod members, along with the species’ characteristic singing.
Several conservation-focused nonprofits and charter boat companies organize whale-watching tours in these months; half-day and full-day tours offer spectacular offshore encounters with the whales, which can sometimes be seen frolicking with calves. You can compare tour details and prices and purchase tickets online through the Island Tour Centre (tel. 441/236-1300, fax 441/296-4661), which represents more than 20 vendors of ecotours and water sports.
Blue Water Divers & Watersports (Robinson’s Marina, Somerset Bridge, Sandys, tel. 441/234-1034) offers charters on request. Bermuda Zoological Society (tel. 441/293-2727) and Bermuda underwater Exploration Institute (tel. 441/292-7219) both offer whale-watching outings on their respective research/education vessels.
Bermudian Andrew Stevenson has spent several seasons filming whales for his Humpback Whale Research Project (tel. 441/777-7688). His award-winning 2010 documentary, Where the Whales Sing, describes the humpbacks’ journey through the eyes of his six-year-old daughter, Elsa. DVDs of the film are on sale at several local bookstores and gift shops.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Bermuda.