Snorkeling with wild dolphins in the open Atlantic Ocean can be a very inspirational experience. It is a special perspective to encounter these fascinating marine mammals in their element at eye level in close proximity. Today in the morning, we were able to meet up with some Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) a few miles off Jardim do Mar.
Generally, underwater interactions with cetaceans in Madeira are possible with two dolphin species: the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and the lovely Common dolphins which we have seen today. On our morning snorkeling trip, we have also seen Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) but their behavior around the boat is not very interactive and therefore there is no way trying to swim with them. Another point is that according to the regulations it is not possible to interact with any other cetacean specie than Spotted or Common dolphins.
Those two species are playful around the boat and also come over to check out divers in the water. The pod this morning kept a distance first but the dolphins came in closer after a few minutes. We could see their beautiful yellow-grey side colorations, the dark back and the bright undersides in the clear water. But not only the visual impressions were amazing, it was also very remarkable to hear these lovely ocean dwellers communicating.
The Common dolphins usually chat a lot. Clicking and palpitating sound are complemented by whistling noises. The acoustic detection of the animals is sometimes easier than their sighting. The exact meaning of specific sounds remains unknown but it is truly amazing to listen to the dolphin conversations under water.
During the tours of the day, we have seen the mentioned Common and Striped dolphins and in addition Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and even a big baleen whale (Balaenoptera spec.) which we could not certainly identify.
by Jan-Christopher Fischer
Sightings of the day
08:30 (snorkeling) Short-beaked common dolphins, Striped dolphins
12:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Sperm whales
09:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Striped dolphins
13:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Balaenoptera spec.
17:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Striped dolphins