Mother and calf humpback whales. Photo courtesy https://www.cartedelareunion.fr
Whale Watching is a popular tour in many countries, but not currently available in Belize likely due to the lack of knowledge of whales' migratory paths and distance from popular tourist destinations. But if you're in the right place at the right time, and with a bit of luck, you may encounter a magnificent whale migrating through the waters of Belize. Most of these encounters have been sighted by dive vessels and fishermen while traveling between the main barrier reef and the atolls, but there are rare sightings of whales inside the Barrier Reef, as recently occurred near Placencia, and several stranded (dead) whales that have washed ashore on offshore cayes over the past several decades. Due to the paucity of data on whales migrating through Belize, each sighting counts.
Seeing dolphins and whales in the wild can be a life changing experience!
How to get Involved!
If you observe a whale get your camera or smart phone ready and take video and pictures! Try to get pictures of the head, mouth and tail. Record the following details and submit your report online:
Why are Whales Important?
That whales migrate through Belize's waters contributes to our biodiversity and potential tourism income. Whale & Dolphin Watching tours are very popular attractions in most destinations where they can be found, but guidelines should be implemented in order to manage access so impacts from human viewing activities are lessened.
What are Cetaceans?
Cetaceans are marine mammals and include whales and dolphins. Like other mammals they have the following characteristics in common:
Cetaceans in Belize
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are the most common type of cetacean in Belize, followed by the spinner dolphins. Whales are most commonly observed between Turneffe and Lighthouse Atolls while enroute to dive Lighthouse Atoll by dive boat operators. There are also strandings of whales along the coast, albeit rare.
How to ID whales
Whales are identified by the water spewn through their blow holes, the shape of the hump formed when they dive, and their tail. The following illustrations from Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises highlight the unique characteristics of each species.