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Located in the Caribbean Sea north of the Dominican Republic, every year The Silver Bank plays host to the largest gathering of North Atlantic humpback whales. Every year from January to April, as many as 3,000 gather to court, mate and give birth.

Surrounded by ocean waters thousands of feet deep, the irregularly shaped submerged limestone plateau (measuring roughly 32 by 16 kilometres) known as a bank, rises to an average depth of 30 metres below the surface, reaching 18 metres or even less in shallower areas. The north-eastern edge of the bank hosts an impressive chain of coral heads of varying number and density. Near the densest part of the reef is the designated site where the vessel anchors for the duration of the visit. 

The Marine Mammal Sanctuary encompasses not just the shallow calving and breeding grounds of the Silver Bank, Navidad Banks, and Samana Bay, but also all the deeper ocean waters between, which are heavily-travelled migration routes for whales headed to other parts of the Antilles. 

No vessel may visit the Silver Bank without a permit, and all activity must adhere to strict guidelines laid down by the Dominican Republic’s Department for Protected Areas and Biodiversity, monitored by an onsite coordinator.  Amongst other things, these guidelines limit the number of vessels on the Silver Bank. In fact, only three permits are issued, which limits the total number of visitors to less than 60 per week, or approximately 540 in an entire season. Low numbers help protect the whales from excessive contact, but visitors benefit from the elimination of overcrowding.

Under regulations laid down by the Dominican Republic's Department of the Interior and Parks, no scuba diving is permitted in the sanctuary except by special permit. These permits are generally only granted to researchers and/or film crews for specific projects. Professional photographers and cameramen must identify themselves as such and undergo a separate application process with the Dominican authorities. Any additional fees must be paid by the person applying.  

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Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, bottlenose dolphin, Bryde’s whale, spinner dolphin, southern stingray
  • Where: Silver Bank Sanctuary, Dominican Republic

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Snorkelling with Humpbacks on Silver Bank

Enjoy the extraordinary thrill of watching humpbacks in the warm, calm waters of their Caribbean breeding grounds, with an opportunity to swim and snorkel with them. From the comfort of a liveaboard vessel, you can watch displays of breaching, pectoral fin slapping, lobtailing and spyhopping.

  • When to go: Jan-Mar
  • Duration inc. flights: 11 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,395 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour
Recommended cruise vessel:

Turks & Caicos Aggressor II

This attractive liveaboard relocates to the Dominican Republic each year between January and April for the humpback whale season on the Silver Bank. This area is part of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary north of the Dominican Republic, roughly the same distance from the Turks & Caicos Islands further north.