02.10.2020 – Upwind
Our Stenella sped out onto a relatively calm Atlantic to find some Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) for our snorkelling tour this morning. We often meet these dolphins in Calheta but the species also enjoys the waters farther west in front of Jardim and Paul do Mar. In the last days the strong Northwest winds roughed up the waters around this area and our spotter, Carlos, kept seeing a large group of dolphins heading upwind to the far western point of the island. Judging by the size of the group and their behaviour, he assumed that they were spotted dolphins but the difficult conditions in the area made them incredibly hard to track for a sighting.
This morning there was no sign of these dolphins so we decided to try our luck in the waters near Ribeira Brava, another dolphin hotspot, and managed a sighting with some shy Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Carlos then sent our team further offshore to some Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhychus) who were moving as a rather dispersed unit in the direction of Calheta and we enjoyed a close encounter with these gentle dolphins while he kept searching for the spotted dolphins. The search for our snorkel-dolphins wasn’t successful but our guests were absolutely satisfied and grateful for the lovely encounters during the trip nonetheless.
As our Ribeira Brava left the marina for the afternoon tour, Carlos suddenly located a large group of dolphins that were speeding towards the rough western waters and assumed it must have been the group he had seen over and over again in the last days. He positioned our Ribeira Brava right at the spot where the dolphins would pass, where our crew and guests braved the rougher conditions of the strong Northwest wind. The Atlantic rewarded our determination with a lovely sighting of spotted dolphins, confirming our spotters guess regarding the species.
The sighting was brief and more difficult due to the conditions but was an absolute blessing and proof of the hard work of our spotter on land. Tracking animals under such conditions from such a distance is a piece of work and positioning the Ribeira Brava right at the transect with the dolphins in time was the result of great teamwork between Carlos and our captain, Filipe.
The Atlantic can be very generous with sightings and not a day passes when we are not grateful for that generosity. It does not, however, deliver such sightings on a silver platter to our team. Our encounters at sea rely on hard work, strategic planning and determination on the part of our team so that we can make the most of what our beautiful ocean has to offer at that moment in time.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins
09:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales