We left the overcast skies above Calheta behind this afternoon and cruised far out aboard our traditional boat until we reached the deep waters and sunny skies 6 miles off the coastline. There, we met Madeira’s most emblematic cetaceans, the Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), deep-diving cetaceans that exist in tightly-knit matriarchal groups, each with its own distinct culture. The animals were behaving particularly “cultured” today and displayed all types of social behaviour at the surface including playing, nursing, spy-hopping and barrel-rolling. We rarely get to experience pilot whales like this and this made the sighting even more spectacular.
As the time passed more and more pilot whales joined the group at the surface, including a handful that arrived from the west that were in the company of some Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Madeira is assumed to be an important part of the home range of resident groups of pilot whales and several individual Bottlenose dolphins and the two species are encountered together so often, that it wouldn’t surprise me if a few of them even knew each other or nurtured a friendship. That imagination alone made this encounter incredibly special!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtles