March-April is whale season in Bermuda where nearly 10,000 humpback whales pass our shores. These whales are on a migration path north to the rich feeding waters near Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland. If you’re in Bermuda during the spring and you haven’t been out to see the whales, there are options to see them from shore or by boat.
Fun Facts about Humpback Whales
- Humpbacks get their name from the large hump that forms before making a dive.
- Humpbacks can grow to 60 feet long and weigh 40 tons.
- Females grow larger than males.
- Humpback heads are covered with knobs called tuberlces. Each tubercele contains at least one stiff hair whose purpose is unknown but thought to be motion detectors.
- The shape and colour pattern on the fins and flukes is unique to each whale. This has helped researches identify and monitor information about whale migration, population, and behaviour.
- Humpbacks travel alone or in small pods.
- Humpback whales have the longest migration route than any other mammal on earth regularly traversing 3,000 miles between breeding and feeding grounds.
- The longest ever recorded migration went from American Samoa to the Arctic Peninsula – over 11,700 miles!
- Only males sing and songs can be heard up to 20 miles away
- They dine on small fish, krill, and plankton.
What Activity Can You See?
This post comes with a disclaimer – like all wildlife watching and safaris, seeing the whales is no guarantee. Even if you do see them, their moods and activity depend on the day. Some days they’ll be on the move so you may only see them taking breaths at the surface and a fluke as they dive. Look out for a bright turquoise patch – this is the bubbles from the whale’s blowhole as they’re surfacing.
If you’re lucky to catch them on a playful and inquisitive day, you can see them slapping their flukes and fins on the surface or a spy hop where they poke their heads out of the water. If you’re extra lucky and on a boat, you can see them swim right under the boat and fully breach the water.
I encountered a weekend seeing all of the above. One particularly spectacular site was seeing two whales breaching in unison next to each other just off Warwick Long Bay. The beachgoers on the shore got quite the unexpected show!
Whale Watching By Boat
There are many tour companies that offer whale watching, whether by tour or private charter. Group tours cost between $75 – $95 per person. Below is a list of operators:
One perk to these tours is that they may have a hydrophone on board so you can listen to the whales singing.
Whale Watching by Land:
No boat – no problem! Grab a pair of binoculars and head to the cliffs of south shore. You’ll know the whales are active if the laybys overlooking Warwick Long Bay and Horseshoe Bay are full of spectators. If these are full, head to the beaches and climb the cliffs to find a quiet spot. My recommendation would be the lookout point to the western side of Horseshoe Bay (between the big beach and the baby beach). Scan the ocean and look out for puffs of mist (whale breathing) and any movement that doesn’t look like the waves.
Other Wildlife You May Encounter
It is also little known by even the local landlubbers that other cetaceans live in our waters. One day while following a particularly energetic whale that breached multiple times on its way out to sea, we were visited by a playful pod of dolphins who joined us for a bow-ride (driving the boat at enough speed they swim along under the bow). The dolphins are not on a migratory pattern and are in our waters year-round. This was news to me after encountering a pod on the way out to Challenger Banks (an offshore underwater atoll and popular fishing spot), in the summer.
While out searching for humpback whales you may encounter different dolphin breeds – the large Atlantic ones, or a smaller type that live closer to the land. You also may see pilot whales and pygmy sperm whales. Even though I have spent countless hours on the water, I have yet to see these whales!
Tips For a Happy Trip
The ocean can be unforgiving and unpredictable, and when you’re on a boat you are on it for however long boat is out. Even if you’re not prone to seasickness, I would still take a seasickness tablet such as Stugeron or Gravol before the trip.
Other things you should make sure to pack to make the day as enjoyable as possible:
- Water and a soda like ginger ale – stay hydrated and bring something that could settle your stomach
- Windbreaker/jacket – the open ocean can get cold and wet out there in the springtime.
- Sunblock and sun-protective clothing – nothing will ruin you day like a sunburn!
- Camera – to capture the action, of course!
- Binoculars – the whales may stay far from the boat
- Snacks – don’t let being hangry ruin your enjoyment