Weather is an all-decisive factor in our line of work. Strong winds can make detecting cetaceans at the surface extremely difficult for our spotter while a larger swell makes it harder for our crew to remain with a group of animals on site. Overcast skies also darken the waters at the surface which makes distinguishing a discreetly moving dolphin from the grey waters its travelling through a challenge. Todays approaching Northwest wind was getting stronger towards midday but the conditions were still agreeable enough to give our morning tour on board our zodiac a shot. So we left the rainfall along the coastline behind us and sped out to sea to find some dolphins.
The incredibly sharp eyes of our spotter soon found what we were looking for; the presence of a group of Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) was indicated by the splash of one breaching dolphin among the white caps of the Atlantic. These dolphins generally display an extremely evasive behaviour during a sighting and the group soon began to charge upwind making it more challenging for our crew to keep track of them. After a brief encounter with the dolphins our spotter asked us to remain on standby until the Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) he saw diving in front of Madalena do Mar resurfaced. Surely enough, the first individuals soon broke the surface and our Stenella sped to the area of the sighting. The enormous females were resting at the between their strenuous, deep foraging dives and clearly didn’t want to be disturbed. As our boat approached, both of the large animals we enjoyed our brief sightings with engaged in a shallow dive to avoid our boat. This prompted us to leave these impressive predators to their well-deserved rest; after all, nobody likes to be disturbed during their midday nap!
Despite the evasive behaviour of the animals we encountered at sea, both crew and guests were incredibly happy that we took our chances today despite the rougher conditions.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Sperm whales, Striped dolphins