This winter season, my family and I immensely enjoyed a Turks and Caicos Whale Watching day trip with the gang over at Crystal Sea Adventures in Grand Turk and Salt Cay, these guys are definitely our resident “whale whisperers” right here in our islands.
Read this blog and learn:
- 8 Important Tips to Remember if you’re considering doing this trip
- How fun a Whale Watching day trip to Salt Cay or Grand Turk could be
- A few interesting facts about the Humpback Whale
- Differences in doing your whale watching trip from Grand Turk or from Salt Cay
- Pricing for a typical Day trip to either Salt Cay or Grand Turk from Providenciales (when you book it with me!)
- About staff and fleet of Crystal Seas Adventures including Tim Dunn, our resident whale whisperer of the Turks & Caicos Islands
That time of the year again, the magnificent humpback whales!
Towards the end of January to middle to end of March, these graceful giants are heading south, coming from as far away as Iceland and Greenland, to breed and nurse their young in the Silver Banks off the Dominican Republic and the Turks & Caicos Islands. They actually can be spotted (and heard!) all over the Turks and Caicos, as far away as West Caicos and even right off Grace Bay Beach beyond the reef. They are a common site for scuba divers, snorkelers and fishermen. Some expectant mother whales even give birth a bit early, giving whale watchers a special treat of seeing mother and calf together in our waters.
The whales that grace the warm blue waters around Salt Cay and Grand Turk are part of the four thousand strong North Atlantic Herd who spend their summers feeding in the nutrient rich waters from Cape Cod to the Bay of Fundy. The whales then migrate south to spend the winter in the warm tropical waters between the Turks Islands and the Silver Banks north of the Dominican Republic.
FIRST OFF … a few interesting facts about the Humpback Whale that YOU SHOULD KNOW
The female humpback whale is the largest in the species ranging in length from 40-45 feet long. The male grows to between 36-41 feet long. Humpback calves are born 6-10 ft. long and weigh 1000 lbs. They feed three times daily consuming 80 gallons of their mother’s milk. The humpback whale song, considered to be one of the most complex acoustic displays in nature, can often be heard while diving or snorkeling during the winter months on Salt Cay. Only males sing, and they sing mainly in the winter breeding grounds. Researchers used to think they sang to attract females, but they now believe the songs simply attract other males in a kind of social interaction.
“Should I FLY TO GRAND TURK OR SALT CAY to do my whale watching tour?” — Good question, glad you asked!
- While many whales have been sighted very often throughout Grand Turk, South Caicos and even in Provo, if you talk to the experts you’ll find out that the main breeding ground for the whales and the best chances of seeing them is in Salt Cay
- If you head to Grand Turk, you can walk around town, check out the museum for a bit and the historic downtown area, pop by the cruise ship terminal, checkout the lighthouse.. chances are you’ll get picked up for your tour by Sand Bar restaurant or somewhere near.
- If you head to Salt Cay, you can cruise the island in a golf cart and check out North Beach, go past the historic whitehouse and see the old saltponds, or head to Porters Island Thyme Bistro for a ‘whole new experience‘
“How much does this all cost buster?” — Another good question, the answer: $399 per person
$399 per person buys you –
- Round trip airfare on Caicos Express from Provo
- Depart Provo on Caicos Express at 8:00 AM, arrive Salt Cay at 8:30 AM, or if whale watching in Grand Turk, Depart Provo at 7:30AM arrive in Grand Turk at 8:00 AM
- Transfers to/from airport
- 3-4 hours of Whale Watching
- Lunch at Porter’s Island Thyme, or if whale watching in Grand Turk, lunch at The Sand Bar (Beach Front Restaurant) (drinks and dessert not included)
- Spend the afternoon free to snorkel Salt Cay’s beautiful North Beach, or if whale watching in Grand Turk, spend the remainder of the afternoon on your own exploring historic Grand Turk. The Sand Bar is walking distance to the Turks and Caicos National Museum, shopping, or just chilling on the beach!
- Depart Salt Cay on Caicos Express at 4:30 PM, arrive Provo at 5:00 PM, or if whale watching in Grand Turk, depart either at 3:30 PM or 6:00 PM, depending on preference
Before going out on our whale watching excursion, we wanted to snorkel the wall – just a VERY short boat ride from the shore at The Sand Bar beachfront restaurant right on the historic downtown core of Grant Turk. Visibility was spectacular, and you could clearly see the difference in depth between the 30 feet of water that we were snorkeling in and where the wall starts – a dropoff to an amazing 3000 feet!
After picking up a few other fellow whale watchers from Bohio Resort, we headed out to search for the whales. After driving for about 15 minutes to a half there they were! A mother and newborn calf – “just about 3 weeks old” said Tim. We followed from a safe distance for a while and looked on in utter amazement as we saw them surface, tail slap, jump, play and put in a performance for us. Everyone had their gopro cameras snapping pictures, taking video and having fun seeing these incredible creatures grace the waters.
As we cruised on, we saw some other amazing sights of whales tail slapping and breaching.
WATCH THIS VIDEO!
And see resident whale expert and whale whisperer Tim Dunn of Crystal Seas Adventures telling us how he find the whales that migrate south to spend the winter in the warm tropical waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands
We followed mom and baby for 20 minutes, Tim suggested that we head to a few different spots where they’re known to hang out, so off we went to ‘the back of Salt Cay’. According to Tim, this is one of the areas that they’re seen all the time, more of a breeding ground type area. We saw even more whales.
If you’re going out with Crystal Seas Adventures, their boat can comfortably handle about 8 to 10 people, they’ll have water on board and the boat has all of the proper radio and safety equipment including life jackets for everyone and snorkel equipment.
Your boat captain will know the best places to go to see the whales but keep in mind that you’re not 100% guaranteed to see them! the chances are Really good though if you go for the beginning of February to mid march or so. The optimal time is second and third weeks of February. As they’re going out almost everyday to look for whales, they have a good idea of where to go, where the main breeding grounds are and a few spots behind Salt Cay.
SOME OF THE SUPER COOL TEAM MEMBERS OF CRYSTAL SEAS ADVENTURES:
He has logged over 2000 dives in the Turks & Caicos and loves to spend the majority of his time in the water! If it be surfing, diving, snorkeling, fishing… Daniel is doing it! With his background being in marine biology, Daniel is very knowledgeable in fish & coral species, and is always striving to conserve the reefs of the beautiful Turks & Caicos Islands. Daniel’s goal is to make sure that when guests are on his boat, that they have an awesome time.
Tim has worked in the diving and water sports industry in the Turks and Caicos for over 10 years. As a Dive Master he has led over 2,500 dives in Salt Cay, Grand Turk, and South Caicos. As a Boat Captain he has spent thousands of hours on the waters around the Turks Islands, and over 500 hours specifically looking for whales. From 2004 until 2008 Tim worked for Oasis Divers in Grand Turk as a Dive Master and Boat Captain. Over the past three years he has had the privilege of diving for every dive operator in the Turks Islands. Before leaving the “Real World” to take up residence in Turks and Caicos Islands, Tim worked as an attorney in Baltimore, MD. Tim’s roots are much deeper in the Turks Islands than a mere decade of residence. His Grandmother was born on Salt Cay in 1908, and his ancestors likely first settled in the TCI two centuries before that. When he’s not diving, whale watching or showing people around Salt Cay, Tim can be found restoring his family’s historic home on Salt Cay, the “White House.”
Crystal Seas – the boat I went out on – was comfortable, safe and perfect for seeing the whales
She is a 27ft Pro Kat that is fast and comfortable. Her dual hulls keep the ride smooth and dry when single hulled boats beat and spray. With 300hp, she gets us to our destination fast. Diving from her is a pleasure, she is stable when tied to a mooring and getting back on board is easy with our strong dive ladder.
This 23ft Deck-boat is a fun party cruiser. She comfortably carries a group of 12! Her open deck makes getting into & out of the water to swim or snorkel VERY easy. With a 115 hp Yamaha engine makes getting to the reef and Islands around GT fast and fun!
8 IMPORTANT TIPS TO REMEMBER IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING DOING THIS TRIP!
- What to pack for the trip: sunscreen, towels, snacks, dry clothes, and put your electronics In a dry bag (or a ziplock bag if you don’t have one)
- Get to airport in Provo 45 mins before, it’s a half hour flight over, and you if you’re late, you might get bumped (seriously)
- Walk with cash
- Plan to park your rental vehicle for the day at the Provo airport (about $30), unless you’re taking a cab
- You’ll probably be on a nine passenger plane, don’t flip out, it’s ok! Oh and by the way, when you’re leaving Provo, you’ll be able to see the entire northeastern side of the island including all the way up to North Caicos, long bay, turtle cove, and a good chunk of the Grace Bay Area. about 12 mins into the flight look to the left out the window, you’ll see a really cool blue hole in the middle of the ocean.
- Once you reach, watch out for the roaming horses and donkeys, there are loads of them and they don’t pay you any mind
- If you’re on Salt Cay and someone invites you to be a zookeeper, think twice!! before saying yes unless you really want to get your drink on
- Depending on the weather and winds, the boat could get a little rocky so if you get seasick easily or have smaller kids, consider taking some Dramamine
Coming back from the open seas we stopped into Salt Cay to drop off some passengers and headed back to Grand Turk – Jacks Shack was an ideal place to come back to with the true beach bar ambiance with Bob Marley reggae, a lively and happy relaxed bunch of patrons, the smell of the jerk chicken and fish on the BBQ and one of the worlds prettiest beaches to just relax on…. We hung out for a few drinks and whisked back to the airport to catch our flight back to Provo.
Whale Watching in the Turks and Caicos Islands is SPECTACULAR! Contact me to book this trip!