Snorkelling was on the agenda this morning as we sped out on board our Stenella and, as always, the Atlantic had heaps of surprises in store for us today. The priority was obviously to find either Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) or Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) to snorkel with and our spotter soon located a group of dolphins that were moving peacefully through the deep blue Atlantic. The groups dynamic allowed us all to assume that these were spotted dolphins but it turned out to be their timid taxonomic cousins, the Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba). Snorkelling with these highly sensitive dolphins isn’t permitted around Madeira for all the right reasons; the animals usually avoid boats during encounters and often turn up in groups containing little calves thesis of bowling pins. Today, however, they leapt through the waves at our bow so we got to admire them close up.
The next encounter was with a group of Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that were resting at the surface in between their deep foraging dives. As we watched these peaceful animals drift at the surface and the little calf within the group bob its head out of the water, our spotter struck gold. A group of common dolphins were heading east and our Stenella soon caught up with them. Our snorkelers gently slid into the water and watched these elegant dolphins appear and disappear in the deep blue and, after a short but sweet encounter, climbed back in to the boat smiling.
On our way back we had the pleasure of observing a group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) hunting at the surface, which was incredible since the species usually dives to forage and hunt here in Madeira. The terrified prey swam underneath our boat in an effort escape their relentless predators and the dolphins soon continued their journey east and we continued our return to the marina of Calheta. What an epic morning!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
09:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins (snorkeling), Short-finned pilot whales, Striped dolphins, Loggerhead turtle