Our Ribeira Brava was surrounded by an enormous Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) this morning, making both our team and guests having trouble to know where to look with all the action going on. The highlight of the morning, however, was the encounter that followed. A fairly dispersed group of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) had just surfaced after their foraging dives as we were leaving the spotted dolphins. These enormous toothed whales use their time at the surface to rest and socialise, although today the animals did not regroup while we were observing them. Only two animals remained in each others company for some time; a larger female and a small calf were swimming east until the adult lifted her fluke and disappeared below the surface, leaving the calf alone in the windy waters.
While this may seem like the adults abandon the young to forage, the time alone at the surface also acts as an encouragement for the vulnerable animal to engage in its first deep dives in an effort to follow the movements of his family below. Sperm whale calves can dive as deep as 600m in the first year of their lives and, considering the estimated lifespan of 80 years, still have quite an apnea career ahead of them.
Whilst sperm whales dive deep to forage their filter-feeding counterparts, the baleen whales, prefer to feed on prey that is more abundant at the surface. Our guests aboard the afternoon tour had the pleasure of encountering a Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni), one of the few baleen whales that remains in the warmer latitudes of our oceans. What a brilliant day!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Sperm whales
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bryde’s whale