One word that can be used to describe the summer in the waters surrounding Madeira is: eventful! The day started with a lovely snorkelling tour, where our participants met a calm and curious group of Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). The guests behaved perfectly during this encounter, making this an absolutely wonderful start to our day.
The afternoon tours were filled with several dolphins, with both the Ribeira Brava and the Stenella enjoying sightings with Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), Short-beaked common dolphins and Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), a species that is usually quite evasive but showed a more approachable behaviour today. Interestingly enough, Striped dolphins become more gutsy in the presence of more interactive dolphins like the commons and may even occasionally bowride! Luckily, this was the case today and our guests were able to admire the beauty of these decorative dolphins as they leapt alongside our zodiac.
Striped dolphins weren’t the only notoriously timid species that became more approachable in the presence of another species today. During the midday tour on the Stenella, we were also able to track down three Sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) and two Tropical whales (Balaenoptera edeni). The first sightings of each species both included a single individual displaying a rather evasive behaviour. The second sighting included a Sei whale and her calf that were swimming alongside a larger Tropical whale and, before long, all three animals were lined up along the left side of our zodiac, gently gliding beside us! To make things even more exciting, a couple of dolphins began “bowriding” infront of the larger Sei whale, playfully leaping as they sped ahead of her. In the evening, our guests again had the pleasure of observing a mixed group of common dolphins and baleen whales.
I suppose we could assume the saying “strength in numbers” may also refer to the increased confidence felt by animals that occur in groups. Whether such groups are mixed or consist of only one species, a close encounter during a whale-watching tour may only require the approach of one curious individual. Then, one can only hope that the rest will follow…
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
13:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Striped dolphins
09:00 Short-beaked common dolphins (Snorkelling)
12:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Sei Whales, Short-beaked common dolphins, Striped dolphins, Tropical whales, Loggerhead turtle
18:00 Short-beaked common dolphins, Tropical whales