Our team was lucky enough to provide our guests with beautiful sightings today. The lovely guests on board our traditional boat enjoyed sightings with some resting Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), a few Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and even were surprised with a lovely sighting of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). The enormous cetaceans were having a short breather between foraging dives at the surface and remained there as if pre-ordered by some of our younger guests on board.
In the afternoon the Sperm whales moved to the deep waters off the coast of Faja de Ovelha, foraging in waters of depths up to 2500m! The 2000m depth mark is an area where we often encounter these charismatic giants and thankfully for the Ribeira Brava, this area is closer to shore infant of Calheta since the depth gradient is steep. The underwater plateau stretching out in the West near Paul do Mar means that waters of such depth are further out at sea, at about six nautical miles; a challenge for our traditional boat but an easy endeavour for our zodiac. The Sperm whales had just gathered at the surface as we arrived and were interacting with a nursery group of Bottlenose dolphins. Although the Bottlenose can occasionally bully other species, this social get-together was extremely peaceful and a pleasure to witness! As we cruised back toward the coast we were approached by a group of curious Rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) who drifted playfully around the boat and socialised cheekily amongst each other.
All sightings on both boats were shared with a Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombei), one of the five dragonfly species to occur in Madeira. The beautiful insect decided to cash a free whale-watching trip and enjoyed sightings aboard the Ribeira Brava from the rim of a sombrero and aboard the Stenella resting on a guests hand. Dragonflies are amongst the most unchanged of insects in our earths history and only spend 5% of their lives as an adult. The other 95% are spent under water in a larval state, before the transformation into the rapidly-flying impressively coloured giant insects begins. One cannot help but understand the presence of this insect on both trips as a sort of lucky charm, that helped our team have an incredibly successful day.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Sperm whales
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, Sperm whales