Here in Madeira we are lucky to enjoy beautiful sightings at sea all year round thanks to the mild climate and the various species of cetaceans visiting our islands waters. Despite there not being a specific season for whale-watching, the seasons do determine the abundance of certain cetacean species around Madeira which allows our team (and guests) to anticipate certain encounters. Sightings during a transition season tend to be a concoction of different “seasonal” visitors and this certainly can be said for the tour we had today.
We kicked off the morning aboard our traditional boat. With a sighting of Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), a species we tend to see during the winter months. These dolphins prefer the cooler waters during this time of the year and are frequently observed hunting either Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) or Garfish (Belone belone) in this period. By the time summer arrived most groups usually move further north but a few, particularly those containing young calves like the one we encountered today, remain here for a while longer.
After an enjoyable encounter with our “winter dolphins” we moved on to meet a small group of our “summer dolphins”, the cheeky Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). Encountering these warm-water loving cetaceans is always great; they clearly indicate summers steady approach and belong to the most charismatic of all ocean dwellers.
Satisfied with these two beautiful encounters our team prepared to return to the marina, when our spotter suddenly called to guide us to a small group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). In contrast to their smaller seasonal cousins, these large delphinids can be seen roaming the islands waters all year round with some individuals even returning several times a year.
Despite the different relationships these dolphins have with Madeira as a habitat, we are grateful that they all use Madeira as a part of their vast home range so that we can continue to enjoy sightings with them.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins