Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A day of many sperm whales

After several more days off the water we were finally able to get back out again today. It turned out to be a great day for viewing sperm whales, as the whole day we had a large pod of at least 12 individuals (adults, juveniles, and calves) off our coastline. During our morning tour the pod spent a long time socialising at the surface. We saw a lot of spyhopping behaviour (this is when they lift their heads far out of the water as is shown in the above photograph of 2 adults and 1 very small calf). We were also able to observe a lot of grouping-up behaviour, with several individuals coming together and rolling around while making a lot of body contact (sperm whales are the most social of all the great whales, and touch is an important method of communication for them). Several individuals were also very curious about our presence, and on several occasions they came towards our boats to take a better look at us. The passengers on these boats were very lucky to have such a close encounter with the world's largest toothed predators.

Several sperm whales grouping-up together at the surface

Large sperm whale passing near one of our boats

2 sperm whales spyhopping close to our boat. On the front whale you can see the lower jaw (on the left side of the photograph) which is very narrow compared to the large bulbous oil-filled head. On the rear whale you can clearly see the large s-shaped single blowhole which is located on the front left of the forehead.

By the afternoon the sperm whales were still in the area, but their behaviour had changed from socialising, to diving and 'logging' at the surface in between dives. On this tour we were able to see several whales again, including a young calf that was left at the surface while it's mother was presumably on a dive. It goes to show that we never know what sort of sightings or behaviour we can expect to see on one of our tours. But this is the most exiting part of going and seeing these amazing animals in the wild.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jeep Safari - Full day tour of Lagoa do Fogo and Sete Cidades

As the weather forecast predicted, strong winds have prevented us from going to sea during the past 3 days. However, Futurismo also runs a variety of land-based activities (including jeep safari tours and walking tours), which allow you to get a taste of some of the beautiful sights around São Miguel Island (AKA the "green island"). Today turned out to be another great day for land activities, as you can see in the following photos. These photos are from one of today's full-day jeep safari tours. This particular tour focused on two distinct volcanic regions of the island: Lagoa do Fogo (morning) and Sete Cidades (afternoon):

First stop: View point over Lagoa do Fogo (lake of fire). This beautiful natural reserve frequently appears and dissapears from view due to the mystical-looking fog that is often suspended around this high viewpoint.

Caldeira Velha - located on the periphery of Lagoa do Fogo nature reserve. A main attractions at this stop are the natural hot water springs and the beautiful waterfall.

Throughout the tour your guide will explain more about the features you are looking at. It's a great way to see the island because our local guides take you to all the best sites, and they are always on hand to answer your questions.

Ribeira Grande - The second largest city on the island. At this stop you have the opportunity to see the pictureque city centre and taste some of our local liqueurs at the factory.

Driving around the rim of the famous Sete Cidades twin crater lakes (Lagoa Azul "blue lake" and Lagoa Verde "green lake"). The views from the top are breath-taking, as on one side you have the very steep drop to the lakes, while on the other side you can see the north coast of the island.

Lagoa de Santiago - Another striking view of another one of the crater lakes of the island. Someting you really should come and see for yourself.

"Kings view point" - This outlook of the twin lakes really is majestic, and there's a good story behind the naming of this viewpoint. You will be told this story, among others during the tour.

If you have any questions or queries about any of our tours please don't hesitate to contact us. We hope to see you here on your next holiday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back on the water

The past three and a half days here in Ponta Delgada have been pretty bad weather wise. We've definitely had our fair share of rain, wind, rough sea, and poor visibility. This morning it was still pouring with rain, but luckily by noon the rain clouds parted to to reveal a bit of sunshine. So, this afternoon we were able to return to the sea for the first time since Saturday. There was a fairly large sea swell, but this made for some great surfing for the dolphins. The two species we saw on this afternoon's trips were the striped dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

Striped dolphins seen on our whale watching and dolphin swimming tours this afternoon

Tomorrow the sea and wind are expected to settle down even more, but the forecast is not looking good again for the following few days. We just have to work with what we have, and make the most of it when the weather allows us to.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Importance of photo ID in order to study Sperm whales

U13 in 2010
U13 in 2009

August is usually a great month for spotting a variety of cetacean species in this area. This is usually also the time of the year when we encounter more Sperm whales than other months. Sperm whales divide into different pods based on gender, age and kinship. The pod travel over great distances and some return to these waters. This is the case with the pod of U13, an adult female that was first recorded here in 1990 (Lisa Steiner) and also has been seen in the Canaries. However when she returned this summer we first had dificulties to recognize her because the amount of marks on her fluke had increased since last year. This is a good example of the importance of continuous photo identification. For clients of us, if you got a good fluke shot during the trip we welcome you to participate to our Sperm whale catalogue by sending your photo to info@futurismo.pt (please include date, boat and time if known).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Highlights and some photos from our recent tours

This month has been an extremely busy, but also rewarding one. We have had many successful tours for whale and dolphin watching, dolphin swimming, and snorkeling in the lagoon of Vila Franca islet. We have had so many amazing sightings that it has been difficult to keep the blog updated. Following are some photographs I have taken during some of our recent tours:

This afternoon we had an amazing encounter with a very active group of bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins in this pod were all socialising and mating, which allowed us to see a lot of very interesting behaviour all around our boats. This is just one of the many high leaps that we saw. There were so many dolphins around us that passengers said "I don't know where to look!"

This bottlenose dolphin was also in the very social pod this afternoon. This individual was very curious about the passengers on our boat. It swam slowly along the length of our boat with its head out raised out of the water so it could look directly at us. An unforgettable experience!

Atlantic spotted dolphins. We have been very lucky with the water clarity recently. On some days the water has been so crystal clear that we have been able to see dolphins diving down to about 20 metres deep beneath us. This has made for some excellent dolphin swimming trips.

Full day tour - Some of our passengers enjoying an afternoon of snorkeling and relaxing on the islet of Vila Franca. This is part of our full-day package that includes a whale watching trip in the morning and lunch in Vila Franca.

These are just a few examples of some of the experiences that we have had during the past few weeks. Of course we have had many more great encounters with sperm whales, pilot whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins and striped dolphins. This time of year we are also seeing many loggerhead turtles and other marine species along our coastline. We welcome you to come and have a look for yourself. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask...
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