Our day began in the most spectacular way! Our spotter located a very dispersed group of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) before sending our team to encounter a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). The Sperm whales sightings all involved the animals resting at the surface, taking deep breaths before lifting their enormous flukes to plunge back into the abyss to forage for squid.
Sperm whales belong to some of the most mysterious animals inhabiting our oceans and, while we know that Madeira is frequently visited by both groups of females and the older nomadic males, we are still trying to figure out more about their population dynamics and how the animals move around Macaronesia. Lobosonda is participating in a recently launched EU-funded scientific project, Whales Tales, that aims to increase the understanding the physiological condition, habitat use and movement of Sperm whales in Macaronesian waters. The deep-diving behaviour and somewhat timid nature of these magnificent giants doesn’t make studying them easy so the sharing of information amongst opportunistic platforms like ours and scientific institutions around the Macaronesian region is crucial in gaining a better picture of their lives. The more we know about Sperm whales and the current condition of their populations, the better we can protect them in future through the better management of their habitat. After all, who doesn’t want to continue sharing the planet with these incredible creatures! Moreover, the more the scientists learn about these animals, the more guidance whale-watchers like ourselves will have to conduct sustainable observations of this species at sea.
Sharing information is just as vital with smaller species such as the Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), a species that is seen all year round in Madeira and has a strong site fidelity to the islands waters. Bottlenose dolphins are known to remain in waters for some time and have even been considered resident animals to the Macaronesian region, with coastal ecotypes moving across the archipelagos opportunistically. Their preference for coastal waters also can make them quite shy, like the group we met this afternoon but meeting this species is always a pleasure!
In a nutshell, knowledge is the key ingredient to sustainable whale-watching so there we learn about all the species we meet out there in the Atlantic, the better.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Bottlenose dolphins
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Sperm whales