Summer is a great time for whale-watching in Madeira for several reasons. The first obvious one is that weather conditions are more favorable, making it much easier for our team to locate and observe cetaceans (and many other animals) out in the vast Atlantic. Another is the abundance of species that can be sighted around the archipelago during this season. The reasons as to why the animals are more frequently sighted in summer vary according to species. We had the pleasure of enjoying quite a few sightings with some unexpected visitors this August, including the rare Pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata), making it a particularly exciting month for us here at Lobosonda. Today, however, we had the pleasure of encountering three of our classic late summer all-stars.
The Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) aren’t called our summer dolphins for nothing! These charismatic cetaceans prefer Madeiras waters when they’re a little warmer and frequently accompany our boats during the summer months. Today this species was observed on board all our trips and were encountered in the water during a sensational snorkeling trip in the morning.
Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) sightings were also particularly plentiful during the month of August. These large, gentle delphinids mainly feed on cephalopods and have been recorded foraging at depths below 800m around Madeira to hunt their prey. Currently squid are vertically migrating up to the surface at night, making them easy prey for these formidable predators. Not only the Pilot whales profit from squid season; local fishermen also venture out after dark to catch squid by luring them to their boats using bright lights and mackerel as bait. Since most of the action takes place at night for pilot whales, afternoons are spent socializing, tending to the young calves within the pod and simply resting at the oceans surface. We managed to locate pods of logging Pilot whales during the afternoon trips on both boats today with some of the more curious animals even carefully approaching our bow.
Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) sightings are frequent during summer for other reasons. The reptiles like to bask in the sunlight to breathe, raise their body temperatures and boost their digestion after foraging in the deep waters around the island. Since the sun is strongest during the mid-afternoon, turtle sightings tend to be more abundant during these trips. Many turtles dive as we approach them while others remain undisturbed and continue to enjoy the rays of the summer sun in peace.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
13:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtle
17:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtle
09:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins (snorkeling)
12:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtle
15:30 Short-finned pilot whales