Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Orca hunting a ray, fin whale and many dolphins with Futurismo!

This morning Futurismo had the most incredible whale watching tour. Our first encounter was with an adult male orca (also known as a killer whale). As we approached the single orca we noticed there was something else in the water. The orca was chasing after a ray at the surface! The ray was still alive, flapping around the surface and always staying near our boat, maybe for protection. This meant that the orca was also passing close to our boat, often within a meter alongside us and right beneath the small zodiac boat that we were on! We never actually saw the orca eating the ray, it just seemed to be playing with it, giving us a great show with its incredible strength and speed. After some time the orca changed its behaviour and began travelling quickly to the east, so we left it in search of sperm whales that our vigia (onshore lookout) had spotted further off the coastline. Along the way we had a brief encounter with a very curious group of common dolphins. The whole time the dolphins stayed close to our boat, often looking up at us as they were bowriding. Further offshore we were surprised to encounter a large fin whale, the second largest animal in the world and our first baleen whale of the year! The whale was difficult to watch as it was surfacing irregularly and for very short periods, but we did manage to get one very good look. We didn't get to the sperm whales in the end, but everybody was very happy with what we had seen, so we headed back to Ponta Delgada. But the show wasn't over yet because on the way back we had a surprise encounter with a group of striped dolphins. They were travelling very quickly, as this species often does, so we got to see them all leaping out of the water in unison. The best part was seeing the many very small calves (babies) in the group. It seemed that almost every adult dolphin had a newborn baby leaping alongside it. Beside our cetacean encounters we also came across a man-o-war and  many bird species, including a rare storm petrel. The waters around the Azores islands are always full of surprises!

Video of the orca with the ray. To view the video in youtube click here.

Photos of the orca:

Orca in the early morning light

Orca circling a ray

 Orca curiously approaching the propeller of our boat

Orca next to the bow of our boat

Watching the orca (on the left) go after the ray (on the right)

Close encounter with the orca

Ray at the surface

Orca dorsal fin in the foreground, ray in the background

Photos of the common dolphins:

Close up of a common dolphin dorsal fin

Common dolphin under our boat

Common dolphins playing around our boat

Fin whale photo:

Striped dolphin photo:

The return to Ponta Delgada

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