Day trip: Whale watching and stingrays in Grand Turk
A family’s day excursion to get up close and personal with whales and rays in the Turks and Caicos
Humpback whale sightings had been on our bucket list, ever since we moved our family to the Turks and Caicos. But because we own and run vacation villas, we were normally too busy to indulge in this migration magic. And though this year is no exception, and we’re hosting full time, we decided to make it happen, telling ourselves it would be another experience we’d enjoy as a family and something we could test out and recommend to future guests, if we truly enjoyed it.
Humpback whales visit the turquoise waters of the Turks and Caicos each year on their migratory journey to the Silverbanks, their usual breeding grounds. Between January and March, you can spot pods of whales that have traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic ocean, and join up to court and choose a suitable mate. Lucky for us, this experience happens right here, in the waters of Grand Turk and Salt Cay.
Divers and snorkelers tell tales of the ethereal mating songs of the males, which they say can be heard underwater as far as 20 miles away. Curious and intrigued, Pina, Max and I hopped on Inter-Caribbean Airlines to fly from Providenciales to Grand Turk during the 3rd week of February. And though we didn’t spot any “flirting” whales, we did see a female, a male and a 10-foot “baby”.
At our destination, we got on a boat and headed out. At close to 40 feet, the female we encountered was longer than the boat we were on. She moved slowly, minding her business. It’s fascinating to see such a large creature with such a quiet, calm demeanor.
Captain Don knows his business. We were impressed by his graceful maneuvering of the vessel, always stopping 100 feet away, and how he knew exactly when and where we should slip into the water subtly, to find the whale right there in front of us. As much as we wanted to experience this, we wanted to do it right, caring for the gentle giant’s wellbeing and getting the most out of our day. Don did not disappoint.
The humpback has been on the endangered species list for some time now. Fortunately, populations have been steadily on the rise, and while once our waters were typically a passage on the way to their usual breeding grounds, we see more and more females swimming with calves, as they pass through our waters.
You may or may not know this, but humpbacks are among the most socially dynamic of the whale family, which means they’re playful and friendly. This means they like to play and you can often see them slapping the water surface with their fins, splashing their giant tails and blowing bubbles at each other. Recent studies prove that whale brains are wired for empathy and love, just like humans. Maybe that’s why it’s so beneficial, and most people dream of seeing and connecting with them.
Captain Don also took us to see stingrays at Gibbs Cay, a tiny island about 2 miles off the Grand Turk main cruise ship dock. We played with rays, right off the beach, while standing in about 2 feet of water. Gibbs Cay is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, play, and learn about this majestic creature up close.
For our family, this was a great trip all round. Flying over the turquoise sea, boating, connecting with 2 amazing creatures, and even driving around Grand Turk on a golf cart. It was fun, adventurous and exactly what our teenager loves.
Follow Max Instragram channel.
Simon, Pina and Max
You might also be interested in the following information: