Whale watching has become an "eco-phenomenon" in many places of the world: Iceland, Galapagos, New Zealand, artic Canada and California are just a few of the places known for whale watching. But you do not have to travel halfway around the world to see whales; there's whale watching right here in the waters off both St. John and St. Thomas.
Beach-goers, hotel visitors and island residents on the northeast side of St. Thomas may want to keep an eye on the water through February and March - that's prime whale watching season in the Virgin Islands although they have been spotted through April.
Whales travel near Thatch Cay, just northeast of Coki Point on St. Thomas, and St. John residents have reported whales southwest of the island as well. Other likely places to spot a whale are the North Drop, Congo and Lovango Cays. Whether you will see wales really depends on how close to shore the whales swim this year.
Humpback whales are the most commonly seen in local waters. Adult humpback whales are approximately 35 to 50 feet long and can weigh up to 65 tons. Humpback whales have dark grey bodies. Besides humpback whales the occasional pilot whale can be spotted usually in October and November. Even the occasional sperm whale can be seen once in a while.
The most obvious identifying characteristics of humpback whales are their dorsal fins. The fins are about one-third the length of the whale's body - longer than most other whale species - and the fins are mostly white. Humpback whales also have white markings on their tail.
Whales travel to South America through the Caribbean to mate and calve. They pass through St. Thomas on their way back north. The calves spend their first few months of life in the warm waters of the Caribbean, building up a layer of blubber that will keep them warm in colder waters. Humpback whales are endangered, and federal rules require that humans and water craft remain at least 100 yards away from the whales. If you are traveling in a boat and see a whale, put the engine in neutral and allow the whale to pass. We don't want to harass them.
The Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John (EAST) has whale-watching boat excursions. They offer a unique opportunity to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. EAST's annual whale watches during March will be held on the 9th and 23rd.
Tickets are $55 for EAST members and $65 for nonmembers and can be purchased on St. Thomas from Dockside Book Store in Havensight and East End Secretarial Services in Red Hook. On St. John, tickets can be purchased from Connections of St. John. For details call 774-1837 or 344-9075.