Our trip aboard the Stenella this morning took place on a rather windy ocean.. which is never ideal for finding cetaceans at sea. Our zodiac carefully patrolled the waters 4 nautical miles off the coastline and drove towards the sun, while our spotter Carlos searched further east and closer to shore to compliment our search area.
As we passed around 4 nautical miles outside Madalena do Mar we suddenly saw a dorsal fin emerge at the surface among the white caps of the waves. Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) were dashing through the choppy waters and keeping their distance in their usual evasive behaviour. These beautiful dolphins often form enormous pods of over 500 animals out at sea but occur the archipelago’s water in small subunit of maximum 40-50 animals. Since many of these subgroups contain smaller calves the pods are often difficult to approach and tend to keep their distance. Today, however, during our approach to the second group of dolphins two individuals repeatedly leapt out of the water, flashing their gorgeous marble-like flank pattern and their characteristic stripes.
Striped dolphins belong to the acrobatic genus Stenella, the namesake cetacean group of our boat and are the species that enjoy the broadest distribution within this taxonomic group. They also belong to the best studied species of dolphin but is also known to be one of the species that strands quite frequently along European shores. Dolphins usually strand due to stress caused by marine traffic which is why a careful approach is paramount in the presence of these highly sensitive animals. If things are conducted in a responsible manner during encounters we can continue to enjoy spectacular sightings like the one we were lucky to share with our guests today!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Striped dolphins