Our zodiac, the STENELLA, may be off the water but her namesakes sure aren’t! The beautiful crystal clear waters i front of Madeira’s southwest coastline were broken today by a large group of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) as well as an almost equally large group of Striped dolphins (Stenella coereoalba). Both species usually show an almost innately different reaction to our boats despite belonging to the same taxonomic genus but today they couldn’t have been more similar.
First up were the spotted dolphins who, as expected, curiously approached our traditional boat allowing our guests to admire them as they drifted along side the RIBEIRA BRAVA. Some animals even stopped to snatch some Pilotfish (Naucrates ductur) that were seeking shelter underneath basking Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), who looked rather shaken by the dolphins intervention. The Striped dolphins were moving calmly 1 mile further out on the ocean and, thanks to the careful maneuvers of our captain Pedro, put their usual evasive behavior aside today to engage in a little bow-ride. The dolphins seemed so comfortable that a mother even approached our bow with her calf and this close encounter allowed us all a rare glimpse of their beautiful striped pattern.
Both encounters were equally enjoyable; never had we had both dolphins react so similarly! In between our Stenella sightings we even spotted another turtle and Portuguese Man O Wars (Physalis physalis) at the mirror like surface of the Atlantic.
Our team can’t help but miss our zodiac since she went on dry-dock, especially when we see such curious groups of Atlantic spotted dolphins, the species we offer snorkeling trips with during the summer. We do however take courage in her being duly represented by her namesake dolphins on a day like this and are thankful to have enjoyed these moments on our wonderful traditional boat.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Striped dolphins, Loggerhead turtles, Portuguese Man O’ Wars