I always make my guests on board aware of the fact that the island of Madeira is surrounded by deep water, enabling cetaceans to approach the coastline and granting some lucky eyes glancing at the ocean a surprise sighting! The best indicator for the presence of marine mammals is bird activity; it is a search tactic our spotter swears by. The particularly steep seascape in front of Calheta could enable sightings right at our front-door and, while our average distance to shore during a sighting is about 4 nautical miles, today the action occurred a little closer to home particularly during our afternoon tour.
While the juvenile Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) carefully approached our boats today to bow-ride, the Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) were once again more occupied with hunting mackerel. The school of these beautiful dolphins was scattered over a large area, with some of the sub-groups hunting in small groups of 2-4 dolphins while others resting in slightly larger groups of 6-8 dolphins.
The resting dolphins had probably already filled their bellies and decided to make good use of the free ride at our bow as the waves pushed the almost motionless animals forward. The hunting situations proved to be more tricky with regards to approaching these agile predators carefully and hoping that they might get curious. One of these situations took place just within 1 nautical mile of Calheta marina, a sighting that definitely served as a motivation for all guests on board that are staying in the area to keep a sharp lookout for dolphins out on the ocean. As the Atlantic shows us time and time again, it always feels good to get lucky with a dolphin sighting.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins