The extensive exchange of information and being open to learning more about marine wildlife is an essential component in conducting responsible encounters out at sea. Our team does its best to adapt approaches to the animals to the given situation at sea while adhering to local whale-watching regulations. The different reactions of the various species to our boats plays a significant role in achieving a sustainable and spectacular sighting so the heads-up from our spotter on land is crucial in this endeavour.
Carlos informed the crew at sea of a group of Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) as we left the marina, a species that is very well-documented around the island. Identified resident groups also suggest that the archipelagos waters represents important habitat for this species and the fact that the species is known to exist in matrilineal societies containing calves, means we must approach these animals with even more caution. Today these usually rather passive dolphins displayed more curious behaviour, much to the joy of both our crew and delighted guests.
We moved on further South to find dolphins, whose discreet behaviour made it difficult for our spotter to determine the species from afar. Once our crew arrived in the sightings area we could confirm that they were in fact Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) an incredibly timid, pelagic species that often arrive in the islands waters in small nursery groups. Striped dolphins are not well-documented around Madeira but, like the pilot whales, can be seen all year round. Although the dolphins kept their distance today, they do on occasion approach our boats to bow-ride a little but their reluctance to interact often means that we keep encounters with this species rather brief.
Careful approaches are our priority whether it’s with animals that visit frequently or pelagic species that just happen to pass by. At the end of the day respect at sea is not just based on empathy, it requires experience, knowledge and involves efficient teamwork. If we get all this right, our time out on the Atlantic is nothing short of spectacular.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Short-finned pilot whales, Striped dolphins