Thursday, August 14, 2014

Azores marine life: whales, dolphins, mantas, turtles a marlin and more!

Today we had it all! The best of the summer in the Azores. It was another perfect calm day in which the ocean is crystal clear and flat like a lake. In the morning we encountered Atlantic spotted dolphins, common dolphins and sperm whales. We got to see and photograph some lovely tails of the sperm whales and from seeing this tails we think it is a group we recognise. Later we will compare the tail photos to our catalogue to see if we have any matches. During this tour we also encountered 4 mantas at the surface, the first of many encountered today...

In the afternoon we had many dolphin groups near Ponta Delgada. Our boats went in different directions and all of us encountered common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. The perfect sea made our encounters really great, as we could see the dolphins gliding perfectly beneath the surface. From our larger boat "Song of Whales" we were pleasantly surprised by a very active group of about 200 common dolphins who were all travelling quickly in unison. They were leaping over the surface in a behaviour we call "running". The spotted dolphins were not so interested in us, but the bottlenose dolphins were very curious and great to watch. As is typical in the summer time we also got to see many tiny babies of all species. After our dolphin encounters one of our swimming boats also encountered some mantas at the surface. 8 of them together in fact! From the colouration they looked to be sicklefin devil rays, which can grow to more than 3 m in width, wingtip to wingtip. We also encountered several loggerhead turtles throughout the day, and on our way back in on Song of Whales our skipper also glimpsed a leatherback turtle at the surface.

During our third late afternoon tour we once again had some great dolphin encounters. We also encountered a manta on this tour (today's manta encounters is a new record!) and we even spotted a blue marlin. The Azores is definitely one of the world's best places to observe a wide variety of marine life!

Photos from the morning:

First sperm whale diving

Second sperm whale diving

Photos from the early afternoon tour:

Common dolphins "running"

Common dolphin

A playful common dolphin juvenile jumps next to its mother

Common dolphins with Ponta delgada in the background

Atlantic spotted dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin smile :)

Bottlenose dolphin calf breaking the surface

Aboard "Song of Whales"

One of our dolphin swimming boats

Enjoying the ride back to Ponta Delgada

Photos from our later tour:

Common dolphin and a Cory's shearwater - hunting the same fish

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