For untold millennia, humpback whales have used Bahía de Samaná as a breeding ground and nursery. Even Columbus encountered these mammoth mammals in 1493, as noted in his journal.
After cruising the North Atlantic, the whales return to the sanctuary and warm waters of Samaná in December. The colony slowly grows until the end of January, when there are some 4,000 humpbacks in the bay.
It's an awesome sight watching these whales engage in their courting rituals, as the males track down compliant females. It's also enthralling to listen to whale songs -- that is, a bizarre melody of chirps and moans. After a 1-year gestation period, babies are born, weighing a ton.
For the best tours, go to the pioneer herself, Kim Beddal, a marine biologist from Canada. Her agency's whale-watching tours are the best and are offered by Victoria Marine, Avenida La Marina (tel. 809/538-2494; www.whalesamana.com), in front of the port at Samaná. Tours, costing RD$2,100 per person, are available from January 15 to March 20. Tours leave daily at 9am, returning around noon. An unlimited number of rum-based drinks are included free as part of this experience, but because a percentage of clients (and even some of the tour guides) aboard these tours tend to become violently seasick, very few of them are actually consumed.