Dolphins Whale Watch
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Canarian waters are home for many species of cetaceans. Here on the island of Tenerife, we are sailing from the harbour of Los Gigantes ( 28º 15′ N 016º 50′ W) situated on the North West coast. The waters are rich in fish, squid and nutrients which provide a perfect habitat for our residents the bottlenose dolphin and short fin pilot whale. We have many visiting species such as the common, striped and atlantic spotted dolphin throughout the year, plus wonderful sightings of migratory whales which pass through bewteen the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera.
Bottlenose Dolphins have been seen close to the coast, individually and in pods (groups) of up to 40. Further out in more open waters the pods can be much larger. Easily recognisable with the bottle shape nose and pronounced melon, they are dark grey on top turning lighter on the sides and almost white/pink underneath. Adult males can grow up to 4 metres in length while the females are smaller, up to 3 metres. They are extremely sociable and seem to enjoy the close proximity and physical contact of other dolphins. Bow riding under our observation boat Katrin and surfing in the stern wave, twisting and turning at great speeds and swimming upside down are just a few of the many games that they play.Strong bonds exist between different individuals, females seem to have a larger social network.They have their babies anytime of the year, but more frequently in the spring and summer when the waters are warmer, bearing only one calf at a time. To identify a dolphin we must look at the dorsal fin located halfway along the dolphins back. When a dolphin calf is born the dorsal fin is normally perfect and as time goes on, the fin becomes marked and pitted, sometimes with chunks missing, ultimately the fin becomes as unique to a dolphin as a human finger print. Bottlenose dolphins can live for up to 50 years, females living longer. They have many behaviour patterns and these are a good indication of their moods. Their brains are very large in relation to their body size and are able to sleep with half their brain still awake in order to remain partly concious. It is believed that the melon (the fatty organ on the forehead) helps the function of echolocation - sending sound waves through the water, hitting surrounding objects then echoing back to the lower jaw area where the echos are transmitted back to the middle ear. Short Fin Pilot Whales are found more to the South West of Los Gigantes, out into open water in the channel bewteen Tenerife and La Gomera. Sometimes it is possible to see small pods closer to the coast eg.1 to 2 miles.The resident population is estimated to be more than 300 individuals living in smaller pods of about 20, consisting mostly of females, calves and juveniles with one or two males. Pilot whales are recognised by the black arched dorsal fin which is quite wide at the base, particularly in the male. The head is large and rounded with a permanent smile. They are dark grey with light or clear markings on their backs. Males are grow to 4-5 metres in length weighing 1.500kg and females are smaller 3-4 metres weighing 1.000kg. Bonds are very strong between individuals, and they usually stay together for life. Pilot whales rest a lot on the surface of the water, sometimes called “logging”, this is due to their very athletic feeding sessions - at this time they are very tired and vunerable- when boats approach them, they are often too lazy to swim away or dive. We must be very respectful and careful not to disturb them. They dive to between 300 and 700 metres at amazing speeds in order to catch their prey for 15-20 minutes, several times a day. An adult can consume around 45kg in one day. As with the bottlenose dolphins, these pìlot whales bear only one calf at a time, which can be at any time of the year, but particularly between spring and summer. Pilot whales are very curious and will approach boats and other objects to investigate. Often they will “spyhop” sticking their head out of the water to have a look around and sometimes you can see them surfing on top of the waves in rough water. They are tranquil creatures, graceful in their movements.