The smallest cetaceans occurring around Madeira are the dolphin species of the genus Stenella, which are represented by the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and the Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba). The biggest animals around here are the baleen whales (Balaenoptera spec.) and the Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus).
During the trip at noon with our zodiac “Stenella” that is named after the mentioned genus of dolphins, we have seen some of the smallest dolphins and some giants of the sea. Four miles out of Calheta, a pod of Striped dolphins came into sight. Those agile ocean dwellers can reach a maximum length of 2,5 m. The newborn Striped dolphins are less than 1 m long and have a weight of around 15 kg. Therefore, they are the tiniest cetaceans we can see out here.
That’s a drastic contrast to our second sighting during the tour. More than 10 miles offshore, we found two Sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis). They will already range between 4 to 5 m in length and weigh with up to 750 kg as much as 5 adult Striped dolphins when they are born. Older Sei whales have an impressive appearance when they show their dark long back while breathing at the surface. From the tip of the snout to the end of the fluke they can reach 20 m and therefore would almost completely fill a regular sized lane in a public swimming pool.
Big and small – it´s the contrast that makes live interesting. This was an incredible tour today!
by Jan-Christopher Fischer
Sightings of the day
13:30 Tropical whales, Striped dolphins, Loggerhead turtle
08:30 (Snorkeling) Atlantic spotted dolphins
12:00 Striped dolphins, Sei whales
15:30 Tropical whales, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtle