30.11.2019 – Big pursuit
Before we set off on todays morning tour on our Stenella, I was asked by two guests whether I ever had an encounter with a Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), a just question; who doesn’t want to see the largest animal that has ever lived on earth in its natural habitat? I answered “No unfortunately not…but I did see bow-riding Fin Whales (Balenoptera physalus) in spring”. True story. We actually had bow-riding Fin Whales in May, the time of the year where we actually expect to see them. So what happened today was simply a beautiful surprise.
After sharing the deep blue watery space of the Southwest with Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), our spotter sent us 4 nautical miles out from the coast into choppier waters where he miraculously spotted some tall spouts amongst the white wave caps. We were expecting to encounter Baleen whales but were not expecting three giant Fin whales!
It was an incredible scene: the three huge creatures were exhaling powerfully as they darted westward. It soon became evident that one animal, the larger one heading the group, a female, was perhaps being pursued by two smaller male animals. While sightings of Baleen whale groups are generally rare in Madeira, Fin Whales grouping up and displaying mating behaviour has been observed on a few rare occasions. So, in a nutshell, we truly got lucky today with this special sighting! The fast swimming giants however, did not enable our crew to get some good underwater snapshots.
The trip was then wrapped up by a close encounter with some swift and synchronised leaps from Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), an oceanic dolphin that tends to keep its distance but leapt never our zodiac today. What a way to start the day, cheers Atlantic ocean!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Fin whales, Short-finned pilot whales, Striped dolphins