This January has been a nice month for winter whale watching in São Miguel, Azores. We have had more tours than usual for this time of the year, going out on more than half the days of the month. We have also experienced more species diversity than expected for this time of the month. In total we encountered 7 different cetacean species, of which 2 were whale species and 4 dolphin species (pilot whales belong to the dolphin family). It was nice to see fin whales this early in the year and it was also a great surprise to have a visit from a passing humpback whale. As well as whales and dolphins this month we also encountered a sunfish, many loggerhead turtles, a hammerhead shark and of course many seabirds. What a great start to the year!
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
This morning out on the ocean we had some great encounters with three groups of dolphins, each of them a different species and with very different behaviours. First was a group of bottlenose dolphins who were calmly surfacing around our boats, next was a group of more active common dolphins that had some very young babies in the group and were not shy to come close to check us out. The last encounter was a nice surprise as it was our first striped dolphins of the year. This offshore species visits the Azores occasionally, mostly during the spring, so it is nice to know that we are approaching that time of the year again. As they often are, the striped dolphins were very active at the surface, making high leaps across the surface and a lot of splashes as they all traveled together in a tight group.
Striped dolphin mother and calf
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Today we went swimming with dolphins, and we sure had a magical time out there on the big blue with bottlenose dolphins. We had a large group of about 30-40 dolphins around but a bit spread out so we could pick and choose who to swim with. Every swim is very unique, just as every dolphin is unique. They were curious and came close to our clients, swimming sometimes just no more then a meter away, looking at them and swimming under them. Other times they stayed further away. The dolphins were quite today, we did not hear much singing but a little bit could be heard. Just being in the water with these beauties is sometimes enough to change your life to the better, but especially your vacation!
A bottlenose dolphin next to us looking at our swimmers
Our skipper Veri on the radio with our lookout
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Today it felt like summer as we had sunshine and dolphins everywhere. We went from group after group after group of both common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins were playful and we had a calm sea so we could see them clearly through the water as them swam on their sides next to us. Its a beautiful experience to get eye contact with a wild dolphin. We also encountered two loggerhead turtles, a Northern gannet, our skipper spotted a shark fin and in the marina we saw the white gulls from yesterday, that is confirmed Glaucous gulls. Rare to see in the Azores.
First loggerhead turtle
Second loggerhead turtle
Squid fishing boat
Aboard our zodiac Cafre
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The ocean was full of marine life today. We have a long species list to give you: bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, loggerhead turtle, hammerhead shark, Portuguese man-o-war, valella, yellow-legged gulls, buzzards, rock pigeons, red rock crabs and a Glaucous gull. Our whale watching boat had great time with the bottlenose dolphins and our well-known Submarino and lots of baby dolphins. These dolphins gave us a show that you can never get in a dolphinarium, as usual, as we had 70-80 dolphins jumping right next to us and bowriding the calm water. Our swiming boat stayed with the bottlenose dolphins having a wonderful and magical time with them in the water and they also encountered the turtles. Later the whale watchers encountered common dolphins but (me) the biologist and the skipper saw a huge splash on the horizon that must have been a whale breaching. We went to the area but no animal appeared. If it was a sperm whale it could have gone on a dive and then it will be down for about 45 min. We also had a quick look at a hammerhead shark cutting the surface with its dorsal fin giving us that wonderful movie-feeling. And we helped clean the ocean by picking up rubbish.
Today we had an awesome swimming with dolphins day, a very large group of beautiful and playful bottlenose dolphins that offered us an amazing spectacle of jumps and were swimming with the boat for a long time, so we had the opportunity of swimming with them as the group was traveling and also hearing their songs.
Our swimming with dolphins journey became a ‘Swimming with turtles’ journey when we found two cute loggerhead turtles, so why not? We jumped into the water as they were lying in the surface sunbathing and getting hot, as they are reptiles they need to warm up with the sun when they have the opportunity.
So they gave us the opportunity to play, film them and swim under them. The bigger one had a special friend with her, a pilot fish who didn’t separate from her.
Swimming in open sea is scary because of the feeling of being so small in the middle of the bigness but it‘s really worth it, the amazing feeling of being hand by hand with this wild and beautiful creatures.
Video of the bottlenose dolphins, enjoy!
Our swimming boat
Our skipper Veríssimo holding a Portuguese man-o-war
and pointing out the tentacles that are venomous and you should not touch.