By Pat Ford

Just got back from Dominica…interesting trip…a bit of a disaster, but interesting.  Dominica is basically a bunch of mountains rising out of the ocean,  They are lush green…covered by dense jungles.  There are lots of fresh water streams coming out of the mountains creating numerous waterfalls.  There are eves several species of fresh water fish in the streams, but all minnow sized.

One afternoon we took a tour of the mountain parks and found some exotic parrots that didn’t stick around for photos, but did get some shots of tiny hummingbirds.

I was with Eli Martinez of Shark Diver Magazine Adventures who had put together a photo tour for us.  Tourists need a permit to swim with and photograph sperm whales and all such activities are strictly monitored.  We were hoping to encounter some off the 200 sperm whales which hang out along the west side of the island.  There are two dive boats that cater to photographers looking for whales…we were with Dive Dominica.

The guides use sonar equipment to locate the clicking sounds that the whales make.  Sperm whales can stay submerged for over an hour so the idea is to locate the whales, go to the area of the clicks and wait for them to surface.  It was a good plan, but the whales didn’t show up.  We found a pod of pilot whales the first day and had some fun swimming with them.  Pilot whales actually kill and devour sperm whale calfs so seeing pilots is not a good omen for finding sperms.  Day 2 we found some subtropical spotted dolphins which were much smaller than our local dolphins and are a bit misnamed because they didn’t have any spots that I could see.

Day 3 we found another pod of pilot whales but the water had so much scatter in it that the photos were all horrible. Day 4 was a boat ride and the high point was talking with a local commercial fisherman that had just landed a 250 lb blue marlin on a handline.  As far as I could discover, there are no sport fishing operations on Dominica, but a good number of marlin, tuna, wahoo and mahi.  On day 5 we found another pod of false killer whales that looked like giant black dolphins.  That was the good news…the bad news was that a latch on my underwater camera housing wasn’t secure and when I jumped in the housing flooded, destroying my Canon 5D Mark lV.  My bad luck just kept getting worse.

I still had a GoPro, but on the last day we saw absolutely nothing and didn’t even get in the water even once.  We did hear some sperm whale clicks on the sonar, but they were deep and moving fast and we never saw them on the surface. Evidently all the sperm whale families were on a walkabout.  Our captain said that at the end of our trip that he had not spotted a sperm whale in 12 consecutive days.  Oh well….there’s always next.