Underwater landscapes can play an incredibly important role when it comes to the distribution of different species within a region. Madeira is generally surrounded by deep waters, that are characterised by a seascape that is as dynamic as the landscape that decorates our beautiful island. Underwater canyons and valleys enable a variety of ecosystems at different depths, that includes several species of deep-sea prey like squid.
The abundance of squid species in Madeira’s waters definitely serves as one good reason for Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) to visit. Today our team managed a sighting with two larger males during our morning tours, who were briskly heading west and continuously diving to forage as they did so. Male sperm whales are much larger than females and can remain in the dark ocean for a significant amount of time. Like their female counterparts, however, they tend to avoid shallower waters. An underwater plateau along the Southwest tip of the island forces the Sperm whales to slingshot further out into the open ocean so, once they reach that part of the island, it’s unlikely that we find them again the same day.
The squid in Madeira also attract pods of Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), deep-diving dolphins that frequently visit the islands waters, with some groups even considered as residents by local scientists. The enormous pod we encountered today were in the presence of about four Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that peacefully swam amongst their fellow toothed whales. It was an incredible sighting that left both crew and guests smiling for the entire ride back to Calheta. What a magnificent day!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Sperm whales
14:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales
10:00 Sperm whales
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales