A year into the covid19 pandemic, Tobago's tourism industry continues to suffer owing to the international border closure. Tobago has sought to use this downtime to improve its tourism sector for when visitors can be welcomed again.
Aside from the pristine beaches, flora and fauna, local dishes and unique culture, research is being done to add whale watching to Tobago's list of attractions.
CEO of Environmental Research Institute of Charlotteville Aljoscha Wothke told Newsday on Sunday, whale sightings are common around this time of year as they migrate from south to north.
Last weekend, Charlotteville boat captain Curtis Antoine and a team of divers saw a humpback whale 3/4 mile off Charlotteville. The divers swam with the whale and Antoine was able to get video footage of the remarkable mammal leaping out the water.
Antoine said, "I spotted it first. Just as I put down the divers I heard a big, scary sound in the back of me. After I realise what it was, it went into excitement."
He said the divers did not believe him when they came back to surface about 40 minutes later. They told him it might have been a porpoise.
"I being in the water all these years and you telling me a whale from a porpoise, I say is better yuh see it yuhself. Just as I take them in the boat, the whale came up. They were like, ''Is ah whale, is ah whale.'"
Antoine said the whale spent almost three hours with them, swimming around the divers when they returned udnerwater and coming close to the 32-foot boat, Workshop Tours
"One engine was running and I switched on the next engine to create some more activity. I was playing with the engine and she came right alongside the boat."
Antoine said the experience felt other-worldly.
"It's not the first time I seeing them. I see the killer whale, the sperm whale and the humpback many different times.
But you start feeling different. My daughter would have passed about 13 years now and just sitting down with this whale around and coming close and doing all kind of antics, I said to myself, 'What, like meh daughter visiting me.' That is the kind of glorious experience."
Antoine said he believes whale watching could be an attraction in Tobago.
"It could be a business once we know the time you can start looking for them. Maybe a 30 per cent chance. The day after a fisherman saw two of them."
Wothke said whale sightings are common around the end of January to April-May.
He said research is under way to help predict more accurately when the mammals would be in Tobago waters.
"We are currently starting to conduct studies but that will take at least one year to one and a half years to see if it would make sense (as a business). We think it would make sense because we also had a lot of dolphins over the Christmas. There was a dolphin school with more than five hundred.
"It is possible but for it to be really working we have to know to tell clients there is a chance of 30 per cent of 50 percent at that point in time."
He said specific legislation also needs to be passed to regulate it.
"You also have to have special boats to do this because you have to go further out. Most importantly, you have no regulation right now on how you interact with marine mammals. In other places where you have whale tourism, you have certain guidelines and regulations. You have to make sure the boats know how to behave, don't harass the mammals, people don't jump out in the middle of the ocean and endanger themselves and the animals. The research has to be done, the policy has to be written."