Today the Atlantic was brimming with cetacean activity and most of the action took place in the waters further west of Calheta, between Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar. This meant that our traditional boat had a long way to go but it definitely was worth the journey!
In the morning our spotter discovered a feeding situation involving Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) who were foraging amidst a circling group of Cory’s shearwaters (Calonectris borealis). As we were peacefully observing this situation our crew suddenly saw a tall spout burst out of the surface of the Atlantic. A Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) was also busy securing a meal in these waters and, judging by the numerous shearwater rafts, had probably been feeding cooperatively with the dolphins shortly before we arrived at the scene. It’s always magnificent to be in the presence of such an enormous animal but we cut our encounter with the timid animal short when two other whale-watching boats entered the sightings area. Abandoning the sighting only meant more action for everyone on board and this time with cetaceans that are notoriously curious and playful. Around two dozen Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) were cruising through an area within one nautical mile of the baleen whale and instantly approached the bow of our boat to glide through its waves. Our guests were absolutely thrilled at the this gran finale and returned to Calheta marina to pick up their sightings passes with enormous smiles.
Smiles were equally broad amongst the guests on board our afternoon tour. Despite the timid reaction of the Bottlenose dolphins and Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris) towards our boat, our guests understood that these were encounters that can definitely be appreciated, particularly with the latter of the two. Beaked whales are the shyest cetaceans around, with some species rarely or never encountered alive at sea making them the absolute trophy sighting for cetacean connoisseurs.
I have no doubt that most of our guests will see the waters of Madeira with different eyes following todays experiences at sea. Every minute spent on the Atlantic Ocean is different and just fills us with more humility and respect towards all her treasures.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Bryde’s whale
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales