Yes, excursions are allowed. The 2021 humpback whale watching season (Megaptera Novaeangliae) will be carried out with a strict sanitary protocol in order to safeguard the health of citizens and travelers due to Covid-19 and to guarantee the conservation of these cetaceans that travel hundreds of kilometers to reach the north coast of the country. This effort, with sustainable tourism purposes, aims to care for marine fauna, not only in the Dominican Republic, but also in the western hemisphere and global marine fauna; and it has a scientific reason, because this season will be used to improve the database of these aquatic mammals and learn from them, know them in depth and adopt actions that allow their healthy reproduction, for the enjoyment of all people.
The season will run from January 15 to March 31 for the Samaná Bay and until April 15 for the Silver Bank (Banco de La Plata) in Puerto Plata. These whales arrive at the Silver Bank and La Navidad Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the Samaná and Puerto Plata provinces to mate and give birth. Until February 22, 2021, they can be observed Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. These hours may change depending on the measures taken by the Dominican Government.
- The boats can only have 50% of their capacity to maintain their distance and must be disinfected on a recurring basis, in addition to having allegorical signs to the health protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
- The captains of the ships must provide visitors with disinfectant gel, take their temperature and ensure the use of face masks.
- All vessels operating in the observation areas must have a communication radio and each vessel may only make two trips per day.
- Boats must be 80 meters (262 feet) away from whales with calves and 50 meters (164 feet) from other mammals.
- Only three vessels will be allowed in the observation area simultaneously, regardless of their length, and each vessel will observe the humpback whales in order of arrival.
- You will not be able to observe the whales for more than 30 minutes and only 20 minutes is allowed in the case of a calf and its mother.
- When there are few whales, at the beginning or end of the season, this time is reduced to 15 minutes.
- The speed of the whale watching vessels must be moderate, according to the maritime conditions and the vessels that must wait in groups of three must maintain a distance of 250 meters (820 feet) behind the observation vessels.
- It is not allowed to swim or dive with the humpback whales (with the exception of the observation in the Silver Bank in Puerto Plata), nor to observe them from helicopters, airplanes or light aircraft.
- The use of drones is only allowed for research, previously authorized by the Ministry of the Environment.
- The use of identification wristbands is mandatory and in boats less than 9 meters (30 feet) in length, each passenger must wear life jackets.