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. 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 charter boat companies organize whale-watching tours in these months. One of the best is Fantasea Bermuda (5 Albuoy’s Point, Hamilton, tel. 441/236-1300 or 441/295-0460, fax 441/236-8926, info [at] fantasea [dot] bm), which takes five-hour trips aboard glass-bottomed vessels through which whales and their calves can sometimes be seen frolicking.
Bermuda Zoological Society (tel. 441/293-2727, www.bamz.org) and Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute both offer whale-watching outings on their respective research/education vessels. While it is very exciting to spot a whale, please be careful to ensure that your boat keeps its distance from the animals when they surface, and do not to encroach them as they swim along the reef line.
Bermudian Andrew Stevenson has spent several seasons filming whales for his Humpback Whale Research Project (tel. 441/777-7688, spout [at] logic [dot] bm, www.whalesbermuda.com). He hopes to produce a 30-minute high-definition documentary for children about Bermuda’s migratory humpbacks.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition