The calm ocean delivered some peaceful yet eventful sightings on the Ribeira Brava this morning. The large, resting group of Rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) gently drifted near our traditional boat with some animals barrel-rolling and spy-hopping as they socialised at the surface. After spending some time with these prehistoric-looking fellas we continued to a sighting area containing a large group Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). The small dolphins were their usual charming selves at first, approaching the bow of our colourful boat inquisitively and almost completely distracted us from the large Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) resting at the surface nearby. Suddenly, the spotted dolphins frantically darted eastward, an unanticipated behaviour that may have been linked to hunting or flight from danger. The latter would have meant that some other cetaceans or creatures may’ve scared the small dolphins off and the pilot whales, being the passive, gentle giants that they are, were the unlikely cause of this. Reactions like these may be caused by a variety of factors, we can only hope that it may have been an enormous school of fish that would feed the entire group.
Apart from further encounters with large groups of Short-finned pilot whales and Rough-toothed dolphins in the afternoon trip on our zodiac, our spotter also managed to facilitate sightings with small groups of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis).The latter are one of the most frequently encountered species of cetaceans around Madeira during the winter. In the summer we may also have the pleasure of seeing small, compact groups of these gorgeous, elegant dolphins every now and then, who today curiously rode the waves at our bow and flashed their marble-like skin coloration at our guests. Our team also drove six miles out to find a baleen whale (Balaenoptera) that our spotter had discovered far off the coastline of Jardim do Mar. We didn’t manage to track down the timid giant but returned to the marina with sightings of four different cetaceans and some very satisfied guests!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales