04.03.2019 – Greyhounds & cheetahs
The guests on board our traditional boat were in for a treat this morning as we set out on a smooth, crystal-clear ocean accompanied by some warm sunshine. Our talented spotter, Carlos, had located a group of cetaceans further out to sea and we obviously made haste to reach the sighting area. As our Ribeira Brava was moving off the coast near Ponta do Sol, Carlos called us again urging us to keep a sharp lookout for whales in the area. The giants soon surfaced and we immediately understood that these were larger animals by their tall spouts.
A Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) and her young calf passed close enough for identification and for some good photos. These larger baleen whales tend to pass by in early spring to make a short pitstop in the deep waters around the island whilst enjoying the protection of the coastline. They are amongst the fastest and most elegant of the baleen whales. Their elongated, streamlined body allows them to accelerate to speeds of up to 47km/h while hunting, earning them the nickname „greyhounds of the ocean“.
After some time our crew moved on to the initially announced sighting area, where we stumbled upon a herd of logging Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus). The lethargic daytime behaviour masks the incredible dive-sprints these nocturnal predators reach while foraging in the depths. These „cheetahs of the ocean“ can dive at velocities of up to 6m/s and reach the unbelievable speed of 9m/s as they pursue their equally agile prey, deep-sea squid.
Apart from the fabulous cetacean sightings our guests were also able to spot two fairly large Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) making the most of the suns rays at the surface of the Atlantic. The reptiles lingered at the ocean interface before plunging back into the depths as we carefully approached.
We then wrapped up this leisurable morning with some lovely exchanges on the different species we are able to encounter in the waters of the archipelago as we gently cruised back to the marina.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Fin whales, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtles