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Introducing Samaná

Samaná is another far-flung Dominican town swimming hard against the currents of the global recession: come here outside whale season and it feels like a ghost town, with as many daily closures of local business as glorious sunrises over the bay. Without the pristine coastlines and international expat flare of nearby Las Terrenas and Las Galeras, Samaná just barely clings to the slow daily rhythms of an ordinary Dominican life: fishermen’s days are lived on the water; the ferry from Sabana de la Mar comes and goes; and the Malecón (main street; literally ‘sea wall’) takes on a somnolent air. That all changes from mid-January to mid-March, of course, when scores of tourists descend upon Samaná to catch glimpses of the great North Atlantic humpback whales without whom Samaná would scarcely warrant more than a glimpse in the rearview mirror.

In fact, Samaná was little more than that until 1985, when the first whale-watching expedition from this isolated fishing village set out. Because North Atlantic humpbacks find the bay water particularly suitable for their annual version of speed dating, Samaná is transformed by tens of thousands of tourists who flock here to go on a whale-watching tour, a natural spectacle with few equals.