Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blue whales, fin whales and lots of dolphins

Today we had both morning and afternoon tours, each of which couldn't have been more different. This morning the sky was grey and gloomy with the occasional shower, but the sea was perfect with very few waves. As the spring is the best time to view migratory whales, for example the blue whale, fin whale and sei whale, we knew we had a great chance of a sighting. We had several encounters with blue and fin whales, the largest and second largest animals on earth! We arrived at an area where our lookout had seen a blow and to our delight it belonged to a blue whale. Migrating from warmer waters in the south and travelling north to the polar seas around Greenland, Norway and Iceland, these whales pass by the Azores during their northern migration. We then spotted another blow, this time from a fin whale, another migrant, also travelling to polar seas. It is not uncommon to sea both species interacting with one another during their migration. It has also been documented that these two species reproduce together and form hybrids. To end the morning tour we sighted a group of bottlenose dolphins, one of our resident species, interacting with a fishing boat, probably feeding. Then the unexpected happened; a fin whale surfaced within the pod of bottlenose dolphins, giving us a fantastic surprise and leaving clients speechless.

In the afternoon the sun came out the cloud cleared and we witnessed very interesting behaviour from a group of four fin whales, surfacing in sync, turning over showing us their flukes (the tail) and white belly. We also sighted another group of bottlenose dolphins, this pod had some very interesting members. (for example one has a broken lower jaw - see photo below) others had distinct scratches and markings. The pod contained approximately 50 individuals bowriding in front of us. We also sighted a large pod of common dolphins that was particularly large for the spring time, normally these pods are more dispersed and in the summer contain more animals. There were also many calves in this pod.

Video of 4 or 5 fin whales surfacing calmly one after the other

Video of the common dolphins from the afternoon

Photos from today:

The blue whale's blow can reach up to 10 -12 meters

Two fin whales surfacing together

Fin whale surfacing

Fin whale head

A fin whale with its white belly up

Our well known bottlenose dolphin with a broken top jaw

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins

Our catamaran Cetus from in the morning mist

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Humpback whale, blue whales and fin whales

Today we had whales everywhere, including a humpback whale. We spent the morning in the company of the humpback whale, but also blue whales and fin whales. When we were approaching the humpback whale we saw it lobtailing, and our lookout had seen it breach several times before we arrived. Even if we didn't see any breachings we enjoyed the lovely company of this whale. In the afternoon we didn't resight the humpback whale, but we had lots and lots of blue whales and fin whales around us. We hardly knew were to go as we saw blows everywhere and we lost count of how many whales we had.

And, of course, we can't forget that we also saw common dolphins both in the morning and afternoon.

Video of two blue whales surfacing in sync together

Photos from today:
 Humpback juvenile surfacing 

 Blow holes of a blue whale 

Blue whale (you can see the pectoral flipper through the water) 

Blue whales travelling together 

Fin whale

Watching the footprint from a blue whale

Monday, April 28, 2014

5 species of whales and dolphins

Today is another fantastic spring day full of whale and dolphin encounters. This is the best time of the year to see the great whales that are migrating past, and today really proved that spring is the best. In the morning we encountered 5 different species: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, a blue whale and 4 fin whales! The blue whale was the same individual that we encountered yesterday afternoon (we could see this from the distinct white coloured dorsal fin that it has). The blue whale was travelling together with the 4 fin whales. Several times we were able to see the tail of the blue whale; a rare surprise that we do not see often from this species! Because there were so many whales together we never had to wait long to see a whale at the surface, as they were surfacing one after the other. The final surprise for the morning tour was an encounter with striped dolphins for the first time since the beginning of last month.

Photos from today:

Blue whale tail

A huge fin whale covering up one of our zodiac boats

 Enjoying the ride!

Happy clients at the end of the tour

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Curious blue whales, fin whales and dolphins

Today we observed two blue whales acting like giant dolphins. Rolling around in the water, close to all our boats, pectoral fin slapping, showing the flukes and splashing around. We also encountered the second largest animal in the world, the fin whale, and they turned out to be curious as well - checking us out. It felt like we were surrounded by whales, as everywhere we looked we saw the blows of blue whales and fin whales. In the end we encountered at least 4 blue whales and 4 fin whales up close. It is a great gift to see these large animals up close, as there are not many left in the world and they are still facing threats such as hunting and plastic pollution in the ocean. We also had the company of dolphins around us, both common dolphin and bottlenose dolphin. The afternoon was just as great, with encounter with a blue whale, fin whales and common dolphins. We feel extremely luck to be surrounded by so many whales and dolphins here in the Azores!

Photos from today:

Blue whale

Two blue whales (and a Cory's shearwater)

The fluke of the blue whale

Blue whale head and pectoral fin

Fin whale

Fin whale watching

Jumping bottlenose dolphin. To see a video of this click HERE

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Five species today - Blue whale, fin whale, sperm whales and dolphins

This Saturday felt like a true summer day with sunshine, a calm sea and whales and hundreds of dolphins. In the morning we had both whale watching and swimming with dolphins. Our whale watching boat spent the morning with a group of sperm whales. The swimming tour was lovely with a group of about 100 common dolphins, very curious and playful -  making future dolphins.

In the afternoon we started with bottlenose dolphins, and later on three fin whales and a great final with a blue whale. The blue whale was very calm on the surface and we could easily track the whale's pale-blue shadow underwater. Everybody was very satisfied to have seen the 2 largest animals on planet earth!

Photos from the sperm whales in the morning:

 Large male with a huge protruding head

A group of sperm whales lined up outside of Ponta Delgada

Photos from the afternoon:

Fin whale surfacing

Blue whale surfacing 

Blue whale

Blue whale

 Blue whale near Ponta Delgada

Blue whale

Photos from the swimming with dolphins: 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Our fin whale encounters continue

Today was another fin whale day for us. We had a tour only in the morning, due to increasing wind during the day. Although the sea was a bit choppy we encountered a fin whale feeding off the south coast of São Miguel Island. For more than 2 weeks now we have been seeing fin whales every day during our tours. We are now in the best time of the year to go whale watching, as it is now that baleen whales (mostly fin whales, blue whales and sei whales) pass by on their annual migration. During this morning we also encountered a group of our resident common dolphins. On the way back we had some time to appreciate the south coast of São Miguel island and Vila Franca Islet.

Fin whale at the surface

Approaching Vila Franca Islet aboard our catamaran Cetus

Vila Franca Islet

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A fortnight with fin whales

Today marks the 14th day straight that we have encountered fin whales here in São Miguel, Azores. It has been an incredible fortnight with fin whales, the second largest animal in the world. In the morning we were with 3 adult fin whales who were travelling together. They were surfacing very high, coming up with their heads completely out of the water so that we could have a really good look at them. We also encountered a friendly group of common dolphins closer to shore.

We spent the afternoon with five or six fin whales, playing around our two zodiacs. Swimming around us, under us and surfacing together right next to us.

Photos from the morning:

One of our zodiacs on the water this morning 

Fin whale surfacing, showing the two blowholes on top of the head

Fin whale arching to dive

Common dolphins

Our three zodiacs

Photos from the afternoon of the fin whales:

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