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Sunday, December 3, 2023


It's that time of year in the Virgin Islands when humans by the hundreds take to the sea in search – visually – of passing humpback whales.
"Grab your binoculars and scan the horizon; it's time for the world's largest animals to enjoy their annual Caribbean vacation," reads a release from the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John, which annually organizes whale-watch excursions.
This year, there will be three such outings, on Saturday, Feb. 17; Saturday, Feb. 24; and Sunday, Feb. 25. As a special added enticement, all three trips will be aboard Grand Nellie, a historic 75-foot schooner.
For each full-day trip, an experienced ecological guide will provide commentary on marine life and seabirds in addition to helping excursion participants spot any whales in the area.
For each of the trips, the ship will depart American Yacht Harbor at 8:30 a.m. and return at 4 p.m. The daysail does not include lunch or drinks, but the boat will anchor by an offshore cay in the afternoon for swimming and snorkeling.
"Humpback whales typically make their way through Virgin Islands waters in February and March in order to mate and nurse their calves," the EAST release states. "Each year, the Environmental Association sponsors whale-watching trips where the public can get a closer view of these spectacular creatures."
Last year's whale-watch participants got glimpses of lone males as well as mothers and calves traveling in pairs. According to EAST president Carla Joseph, "This year's first reported sightings are beginning to trickle in." She expressed the opinion that "Everyone should go out at least once and see the humpbacks in their natural environment."
Joseph added that the Grand Nellie "is an attraction in itself" and that the ship's crew "is very enthusiastic about taking part in the whale watches."
The cost of each outing is $55 for those who aren't members of EAST and $45 for those who are. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and they virtually always sell out well before the day of departure. In fact, in years past EAST has been known to schedule an additional trip to accommodate demand.
Ticket outlets are St. Thomas Communications in Crown Bay Marina, the Draughting Shaft in Havensight and East End Secretarial Service in Red Hook.
Proceeds from the excursions will benefit EAST environmental education, awareness and advocacy programs. The release describes the association, which is a chapter of the V.I. Conservation Society, as "a not-for-profit, all volunteer organization that seeks to protect and improve the quality of life for all Virgin Islands residents."
More information about the association and about the whale-watch trips may be obtained by telephoning 774-8348 or 774-8816.

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