It’s hard to sum up the behaviour of whales and dolphins in a few words since they all have very different life cycles and social lives. One can, however, say that every single species displays its own unique sort of behaviour during an encounter at sea, each with its own special charm.
Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) tend to remain rather passive during a sighting, rarely approaching our boats but also seldom behave evasively. They seem almost indifferent to our presence and just do their thing, which is to use the time at the surface to rest from their strenuous foraging dives in the deep.
Despite the fact that Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are encountered relatively frequently and can be observed all year round in Madeira, you never really know what to expect from these intelligent ocean dwellers. Personally, I like to refer to their behaviour as dynamic; one minute they glide past us, practically ignoring our boats, the next they’re darting towards us and hitching a ride at the waves of our bow.
Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) are small dolphins with a big reputation; they are known for being fearlessly curious and never fail to give us a taste of this attitude during a sighting. These dolphins often occur in large pods, which seems to enhance their confidence since they often unanimously dart towards us as we enter a sightings area…it’s simply impossible not to love them!
These differences in typical behaviour means that the mood on board during tours with several species is as diverse as the marine life surrounding our island. This morning all 3 sighted species displayed their characteristic behaviour during the sightings but our team constantly anticipates a different behaviour and is always ready for surprises. It’s paramount that we don’t rely on typically displayed behaviours by a species but rather actively observe the reaction of the animals during the sighting. Wildlife encounters are never pre-programmed and this makes them all the more exciting and invigorating!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales