Before heading out on our first tour aboard the Ribeira Brava, our team already was anticipating some Northwest wind at around midday, a wind that usually brings choppy conditions to the waters in front of Calheta. As we drove out the white caps were soon visible on the horizon west from Calheta and our team immediately understood that the wind had arrived earlier and that bumpy whale-watching ride was imminent.
Despite the approaching chop our team knew the effort will be worth it; our spotter had found dolphins, we had great guests on board and the weather conditions can always change for the better very quickly. Surely enough, we managed a sighting (with a healthy portion of sea-spray) with some Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), a species that usually immediately dashes away from our boats. Today, however, it was almost as if the dolphins rewarded us for our efforts by delivering a brief series of leaps near our boat, with one animal even breaching high up in the air in the distance. The sighting was short but our guests were grateful nonetheless and I couldn’t help thinking g that the Atlantic would have another surprise in store for them…and it did! About 1 mile in front of the marina, in the calmer waters practically at our front door our team encountered a group of curious Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), who began bow-riding as we entered the area!
We may have met the exact same group at the beginning of our afternoon tour on our traditional boat and the group remained near our boat for an even longer period of time. The sighting with these charismatic dolphins was succeeded by an encounter with a handful of their close relatives, the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). Unlike Striped dolphins, who belong to the same taxonomic group, spotted dolphins are innately interactive creatures and almost immediately approach us when we enter the sightings area. Today they kept it short but everyone was grateful for the wonderful gifts the Atlantic surprised us with today.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Striped dolphins
14:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins