Toothed whales are generally considered to be highly social creatures, learning from and nurturing complex relationships to one another. The fact that these animals occur in groups and put their social lives on display during a sighting, makes encounters with these intelligent creatures extremely spectacular.
There are, however, life stages and situations where these highly gregarious mammals choose to live a more solitary life. After reaching maturity, Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) bulls leave the safety of their maternal pods and form juvenile groups that travel together to feed and compete for mates. Eventually, however, when the animals reach a certain size, they separate from these “bachelor pods” and wander alone as nomads through the worlds oceans. These enormous animals are surprisingly timid, but occasionally allow our boats to approach and deliver spectacular sightings. We were in absolute awe at the sheer size of the animal we encountered today, as it drifted at the surface for some time before lifting its huge fluke and plunging into the depths.
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are highly social and often encountered in the presence of Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephla macrorhynchus), like the group we encountered today or are seen swimming amongst smaller species such as the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). However, they also happen to be one of the most frequently encountered solitary cetaceans and these lonely dolphins are thought to be the ones seeking the company of humans along the coastline. Some scientists assume these animals to be outcasts or individuals that were separated from their pod through some sort of event, a storm for instance.
As lonely as these ocean nomads may sound, nothing beats the loneliness of a cetacean in captivity, robbed of its dignity and separated from the choices it would have in its natural habitat. Our whale-watching and snorkelling tours should serve as proof of how unnecessary and cruel it is to keep these marine wanderers in an enclosure by showing just how incredible and versatile their lives are in the ocean and how wonderful it is to meet them there.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Sperm whale