Strategically planning a responsible whale-watching tour out on the ocean is always a joint venture. Our success is dependent on a good network of communication from our entire team which stretches from the information given by the booking team ahead of the tour, to the spotter searching from land up to the crew at sea that facilitate educational and careful encounters with the animals.
Collaborative efforts in getting things done right is a social feature that can be observed across the animal kingdom. Toothed whales, for instance, work as a unit to ensure the survival of the social structures they exist in and often even approach other species for support. Such peaceful interactions are most commonly seen between Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) and Bottlenose dolphins (Tusiops truncatus) around Madeira. The Bottlenose often approach the large, gentle pilot whales to socialise and gain hunting advantages for nutritious deep-sea prey such as squid. We bore witness to such an interaction on our morning and afternoon tour on board the Stenella today.
While hunting strategies are the likely reason for interactions between different species, it sometimes doesn’t cut it. Sometimes it is simply curiosity and this can also be assumed for species of cetaceans that approach our boats during trips at sea. While inquisitive approaches are fairly common in Bottlenose dolphins and Short-finned pilot whales and almost always the case when it comes to Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), they are extremely rare in the case of beaked whales. This only makes todays sighting of Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris) all the more phenomenal. While this species does have its curious moments, I don’t think I’ve ever experience such a close encounter; one juvenile was even bow-riding and glancing up at us..absolutely magnificent! Of course, such brilliant encounters are the result of the hard work of our crew but also requires curiosity on the side of the animals, a beautiful interplay of effort and luck!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales, Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales