Ok … so weird as it is, I have never been to the Caribbean as I have never really felt the urge… However my 16 day, 10 flight bonanza has now arrived and I am boarding the plane for Antigua. Not my final destination, but just a stop-over on the way to Dominica (note; not Dominican Republic…Dominica!). Antigua, I have to say, is not a bad first taste of the Caribbean. A smart new airport, easy immigration and smiling faces all round makes this an easy place to warm to.
A short drive brings me to my overnight stop, the aptly named Tradewinds Hotel with views out over the bay. My taxi driver, Kiesha – whose preferred saying is a thickly accented ‘Boderaaaaaation ‘dem peeeeple!’ (Boderation comes from the word bother) – leaves me to relax and promises to be there at 0530hrs the next morning to transfer me back to the airport for my next flight. I settle in and then set off down the hill to explore. A 20 minute walk brings me to the local beach with pristine white sand and sunset views. Making my way back to my hotel, I sit on the terrace overlooking the bay enjoying my first Caribbean beer.
0445hrs I wake and get myself ready. Keisha’s cab is there and we wind our way back to the airport. Swift check-in and a quick wander round the shops and I am ready to leave Antigua behind for the Nature Isle of Dominica. My flight is with LIAT Air – apparently an acronym for “Luggage in Another Terminal” – which progresses smoothly as we have a short 30min hop down to the isle of Dominica. A crazy hour or so drive across the thickly vegetated mountains, steep valleys and rushing rivers of this Nature Isle brings me to the capital of Rouseau and my cosy lodging for the next five days, Castle Comfort Lodge. Located directly on the seafront, there is probably no better base for the focus of this trip, swimming with the sperm whales of Dominica.
As it happens, our expert guide and boat have not left yet for the day so I get the chance to dump my bags and join my sperm whale compatriots as we jump aboard and set out to sea. Whilst this is an extremely unique trip, within an hour or so we have our first success! With pairs of eyes scanning from every corner of our catamaran, we soon spot the water spouting into the air from the blow holes of these docile creatures. This is not the last however, as throughout the day even though we have unusually rough seas, I lose count of how many sperm whales we encounter. Clients are in and out of the water subtly as we place the boat carefully in order not to disturb the whales, but to give people the chance to swim alongside them. Some clients are here for just the sheer pleasure of swimming with them, some for the best photographs possible, and some (me!), to see how it all works! The day is a success. Whilst I was unlucky on this occasion not to swim with any, my time will come, and I conclude what can only be said is a very successful first day of swimming with sperm whales.