Out on the waters with Lobosonda can mean one of two experiences: either speeding across the water on our rapid Stenella, built for exactly this purpose, with twin engines that get us exactly where we want to be in no time at all, for a fun filled trip. Or a calm sunny cruise onboard the Ribeira Brava, enjoying the sights and experience, getting close to the same animals at its own leisurely pace.
However, the Ribeira Brava was not originally designed for this purpose, as it used to be a fishing boat before, with her maiden voyage in 1964. Back in the day, it was equipped with the long lines used to catch the deep-water scabbard fish (Aphanopus carbo), amongst others. And in those days seeing a dolphin was not such a good thing. Dolphins as we know are quite clever, and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) has learned to identify the sound of the winch that pulled up the deep-water fish to the surface. Having learned not to bite the hook, bottlenose dolphins leave the head, and happily bite off the rest of the fish for an easy snack. These days Ribeira Brava no longer has fishermen on board, rather it has guests from all over the world and they are overjoyed to see the bottlenose dolphins!
The Pilot-whales (Globicephala macrorynchus) are also quite fond of the Bottlenose dolphin, they even travel and socialise together sometimes, even though they are quite a bit bigger. Or perhaps it is for exactly this reason that we see them together, because nowhere is safer than by the side of a much bigger friend.
The two smaller species that graced us with their presence in the coastal waters around Calheta today were both of the genus Stenella. This tells us that they are quite close to each other in the evolutionary tree of life. The Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) and the Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) both inspired the naming of our boat Stenella. But whoever came up with the names of these two dolphin species must have been a very literal person. The striped dolphins have lovely black stripes running along the lower part of their body, and the spotted dolphins get lots of spots on their bodies as they get older. Very useful for field identification, yet we usually already know the species purely by behaviour! Spotted dolphins are just as interested in us as we are in them and are usually up for a little human watching tour. The stripes on the other hand have other things on their mind, but when we get lucky, we still get to see the beautiful patterns on their body as they jump away towards the horizon
By Scott Dorssers
Sightings of the day
13:30 Short finned pilot whale, Bottlenose dolphin
17:00 Short finned pilot whale, Atlantic spotted dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin,
09:00 Short finned pilot whale, Atlantic spotted dolphin, Striped dolphin
15:30 Atlantic spotted dolphin, Short finned pilot whale
18:00 Atlantic spotted dolphin, Short finned pilot whale