Thursday, January 31, 2019

Our kids, our future!

The world population is getting everyday further away from the natural world and from its cycles. That means that we are getting distant from reality and thus, certain values and foundations that have been always taken for granted, start now to fall into disuse and into oblivion. As such, the development and support of activities for kids and adults based on environmental education, understanding and reconnecting with nature, are of increasing importance in our society. Nature is not only indispensable for our survival and subsistence, but it is also one of the main sources for our personal well-being.




Based on this ideology, over the last months, Futurismo has been developing several activities together with one of the schools of Ponta Delgada. We would like to ensure that some of these values on environmental concern and awareness continue to gain shape and increasing presence and importance in the daily life of these little persons. They are the future! With this program, we aim to increase the regularity and diversity of the environmental education within the curricular program of the regional schools. We aim to develop pedagogical and fun tools that awake curiosity, environmental awareness and teamwork spirit on these children. 



During these educational activities, we have already shared knowledge and a lot more ideas are about to be expressed! All together, we learnt and shared ideas about the rich biodiversity of the Azorean archipelago, with a greater emphasis on the marine mammals, which, like us, also rely on ocean resources to survive; and on the bird species that nest and live here and/or just passing by for a limited period among their migrations. We will explore as well the richness and complexity of the terrestrial environment in São Miguel, introducing the native vegetation with the opportunity to explore in situ by themselves. We believe that these charismatic species and these incredible landscapes will help to awake a sense of active concern for Nature and the Ocean. 


Our biologists explain which cetacean species can be observed in the Azores


We also introduce a small sample of the whaling history of the archipelago, showing the children the hard reality that was present here not so long ago, and how important was the whaling (and nowadays the whale watching!) for the survival of the islanders. 
Another important topic we explore with the kids is the threats that the natural environment is facing nowadays: overfishing, pollution, plastic, etc. We (humans) are directly or indirectly responsible for great part of them. We try to encourage them to reduce their plastic dependency, to reject what they don’t need, to re-use materials in original ways, to recycle, ... We address also the theme of the water: essential and finite! We will show the water cycle through small games, emphasizing its finitude, how lucky we are for still having access to it, and how easily it can be polluted and gone. To sum up, we would like to encourage them to live a more sustainable life! We make sure to introduce some simple and creative tips, solutions and alternatives for these daily problems. We all should act individually, because together we can make the difference. Teamwork will succeed in these global battles!


This educational program was born thanks to the love and care that all the Futurismo’s family nourishes to this archipelago and to all its patrimony, and the will to share and support social development within our nearest reality!


Maria Fonseca, 2019.



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

We want our guests satisfied, we won’t stop trying!




Today wasn't an easy day, not for our guests, nor for us, neither for our lookouts. The weather conditions and visibility were not the best for a whale watching tour today.

But we won’t stop trying and everyone will have another opportunity. 😊

We started by travelling to east because one of our lookouts spotted a group of dolphins. Unfortunately, when we arrived to the area, the sea conditions and the visibility from land started to get poor and we couldn't spot the group of dolphins.

We tried to move to another area, and no luck again. In both occasions we tried our hydrophone several times but looked like the dolphins were not communicating.

When we were going back, the other lookout spotted another group of dolphins. We had nothing to lose, so we went to that area and finally spotted a group of common dolphins. They were very curious at the beginning but then they dived and disappeared.

We have always to remember that we work with wild animals, so sometimes it happens for them to be close or sociable, and sometimes happens the opposite. We have also do remember that sometimes our trips start with some weather conditions and a matter of minutes they can change. Everything counts.


After all, we also know that the experience wasn't the expected by our guests, so we offered the opportunity for them to come again with us. Not all the trips are the same, so we expect you here with us soon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Just like a summer day with dolphins and sperm whales

Today the sky was free of clouds and the sun was shining clearly. The sea was calm and our lookout spotted two different species, but by the end of the morning we had already seen three resident species! 

Firstly we met a big group of common dolphins divided in multiple sub groups where some of the animals were diving deeper, probably to chase the fishes closer to the surface and enclosing it against this physical barrier. At this moment, we started to watch the chasing outside of the water. The seagulls also flew down to the surface of the sea to try to get some of the fishes reunited by the dolphins. 








Further West, outside the limit of the island, we found a group of sperm whales socializing between them and hiding from us. So, after we tried approaching several different individuals that we were spotting at distance, the shallow dives were the general behaviour made by this family. Even though we didn't saw any tail fluking, we did see these animals swimming towards each others, spyhopping and also two juveniles near the adult females taking small dives in what it seemed like nursing behaviour. The sperm whale milk is much fatter than ours so hopefully these juveniles will grow fast and strong! 




Already on our way back, we found a group of bottlenose dolphins that we may be familiarized with. After our arrival, at the office we go through all the photos of the dorsals taken today from the bottlenose, and comparing these fins with our catalog we are able to understand if the individuals are the same ones we were expecting! Also on the way back to the harbour some small groups of common dolphins approached the boat to surf the waves produced by our catamaran Cetus.







Sighting statistics of December 2018



Last December has not been easy! During that month, as we could expect, we have seen the four resident species. 

We sighted the common dolphins on 72% of our tours, bottlenose dolphins and Risso's dolphins, both on 36% of the tours and sperm whales just in 18%! But we have had an amazing surprise!!

On the 6th of December, we saw false killer whales! It was amazing. The last time we spotted this species was on July, so it was great to meet them again!

However, bad weather allowed us to go out to the sea only 11 days, and the sea conditions were not so perfect. Or maybe they were for the animals! Wind and waves have been always present. Well, it is winter in the Azores!


Monday, January 28, 2019

Today a Sperm whale diving and two species of dolphins

The sea has been very calm in the last days in the Azores. Good for us! 

Today, we had the opportunity to see Risso's dolphins stealing squid from the fishermen. They were feeding and always following the fishing boats. The only people who were not excited about this situation were the fishermen, you can imagine why. 😉



We went West, where we saw a large group of common dolphins and in the middle of the birds we discovered a great skua, a juvenile of a northern gannet and one Cory's shearwater. 
Northern Gannet


Our lookout called the boat because they saw a blow! It was a big male sperm whale. But when we arrived, the animal dived. We used the hydrophone to understand were he was going, and also to make it easier to get closer to the area. All our guests helped in the search for our treasure... And it was one of our customers who found him: "Sperm whale behind the boat!"

It was a spectacular sighting that ended with a magnificent tail of a male sperm whale.









Sunday, January 27, 2019

Today was all about dolphins

Today, our trip was to the West side of the island. Our lookout spotted a humpback whale, but it was very difficult to follow. However, we went to the designated area, at least to try our luck. Unfortunately, we did not find the whale. 

So we decided to go to another area with some Risso's dolphins. We saw two animals: one older, almost white in totality and another younger. This is the way to distinguish the new animals from the older ones: through coloration. The Risso's dolphins are born black or dark grey and over time they get lighter. 



After seeing the Risso's dolphins, we met a big group of common dolphins





Then, a little farther from the coast, another huge group of bottlenose dolphins to end the trip. 




It was a long trip but we saw three of our resident species. 😉 The humpback whale was not in the mood today. Who knows about tomorrow... 










Saturday, January 26, 2019

Risso's and common dolphins making their show

After one day without going to the ocean, today we went out. The ocean was much calmer than we expected, and this fact helped our lookouts to find two resident species of dolphins today. 

We traveled West and started our morning in the company of a small group of Risso's dolphins, of about five adults. Although normally a little shy, due to encounters with fishermen, they were more sociable today, approaching a little bit our boat and even jumping. 


After this special moment, we continued our journey and the lookout led us to another group of about 50 common dolphins. They ended our trip in a big way, always very curious, bow-riding and jumping next to our boat. We will see what awaits us tomorrow.


See our images at Facebook Page



Friday, January 25, 2019

Safety first!

This week, our crew undertook one more action under our training program about safety on board. 


We visited the facilities where our on board safety equipment is periodically revised. They showed us how to open a liferaft and how to use different safety equipment such as hand held flare, hand smoke or signal mirrors among others. 


We checked all the equipment contained on the liferafts, including food and individual packs of drinking water! 


Remembering all the procedures in case of an emergency onboard is a must when you are working everyday out in the sea. Hope we never need to apply this knowledge on our trips!


Thursday, January 24, 2019

First humpback whale of the year!

If we never try, we never know. Today, besides the ocean being a bit rough, we decided to go out and try our luck. And what a lucky day! After waiting for a while, almost giving up, we were surprised by a humpback whale! The first of the year! 


In our 11 years of sightings data collected, we have seen humpback whales every year. In total, 78 sightings, from which 58% were done in April and May. However, since 2014, some animals have been observed passing by São Miguel Island in January and February. Humpback whales are the species of baleen whale that we usually sight closer to the shore, and therefore, in shallower waters. 


Today, the waiting was worth it. We could see the pectoral fins, that for this species can reach 6 meters, and it delighted us 2 or 3 times with its beautiful tail. It was always travelling South, so probably continuing its migration to warmer breeding grounds. We would love to see this whale again!
What a happy day!


Here in the Azores, in the last years we have seen humpbacks coming from Cape Verde, but we know that some of them are coming from the North Atlantic. Who knows about this one? Check some recent tracking data at https://bit.ly/2RLZvgP

Here is the video we recorded this morning:

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A long way to the sperm whales

Today we traveled far among the waves to find the whales that our lookout saw from the land. Conditions were not good, but we tried our best, both our lookouts from land and our crew from the boat. Indeed, the waves were between two and three meters high, making the trip a little bumpy. However, with the help of the hydrophone that we used several times, we tried to get the most accurate position of the cetaceans, thanks to the sound, before they came to the surface. 
Then, after just a few minutes, we had the opportunity to see two sperm whales not very far away. 


It was very foggy and we were about 10 miles away from our lookouts, but they spotted the blows first and we even had the opportunity to see both tails.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

An active numerous pod of dolphins in sight!

Today, the weather and the sea conditions were still challenging, so we had lots of fun with our catamaran Cetus and enjoyed the most out of the beautiful sea, always taking security as a priority.

Our lookout spotted a pod of bottlenose dolphins, so we travelled east up to this area and found a big group with lots of juveniles and calfs. We estimated around 80 individuals. They were pretty active today, travelling with average speed right at the front of our boat, letting us see them quite well. As they are so curious, we think that they could also see us pretty well. 


Some of the juveniles were jumping out of the water and splashing their body against the surface! We cannot be 100% sure of the reasons for this behavior but we may understand it as a way for communication (through the sound produced by the splash) in between the animals of the same pod. It might also be to get off some ectoparasites that may be attached to their skins and also can be used when they need to scare and gather fishes all together in a bait ball! 


As they stayed so close to the boat, we used our hydrophone, connected to the speakers distributed all along the boat. It allowed us to listen to some of the various types of sounds that these dolphins may produce! We heard the clicks used for echolocation when they were looking for food and also heard their whistling that is mostly used as another way of communication between them. At this time, they were taking deeper dives together, maybe to scare the fishes up to near the surface of the water, making the task of feeding easier for them and harder for the little fishes! 


On the way back, we were still able to spot a great skua flying in the sky above our heads, which is a species not so common to see above our waters!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sleepy Monday for the whales

Today was an atypical day. We went to the ocean very early because the wind was expected to increase. 


At the beginning of the trip, we passed near squid fishing boats. Sometimes, near these boats, we can see bottlenose or Risso’s dolphins. They are very intelligent animals and know that they have an easy meal there 😉 

Unfortunately, we were not lucky, we did not find any dolphins. We called our lookouts for help but they told us that they had a lot of fog in front of them, so the visibility was really poor and could not see the ocean. 

We pulled our trump card: the hydrophone! We went Eastwards because the sea was calmer there and we used the hydrophone, trying to hear some of our underwater friends. Unfortunately, they were too quiet or too far away to be heard by our hydrophone. After a lot of miles, we gave up, so we went for a tour along the coast and went to Vila Franca do Campo islet. 


Sometimes it happens, the animals are not there to be seen. They are free and we do not have any kind of control over their behavior. It does not happen often, but sometimes it is not possible to observe animals during our tours. 


When this happens, we give the opportunity for our guests to have another trip with our company for free. Let's hope better luck for tomorrow.

An azorean buzzard flying above us


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Gorgeous common dolphins in flat water

Today we went out with our catamaran Cetus and with one of the zodiacs taking almost 50 guests with, eager to discover this sea. The wind was just an impression and the water was waveless looking like a mirror reflecting the completely clear sky and the warm sunbeams.


Common dolphin

Our spotter had seen a group of dolphins surfacing and so we started heading East along with the beautiful shore line, enjoying the rocky coasts and the mountains above. After arrival we concluded it was a group of common dolphins who received us in the area by coming to our bow and adopting this typical behaviour of bow-riding, almost like dancing with each other at our front while making opportunity of the small waves produced by the boat to save some energy while travelling and at the same time letting us watch them really really well. 

We spotted some juveniles in the group and one individual jumping and splashing it's body against the water and at a certain point the birds gathered together in the sky and the feeding behaviour by the dolphins chasing the fish started. 


Common dolphin

Some miles ahead we also came to find other group of common dolphins spotted through the boat while we were passing by them, but in this group we only saw adult individuals. Both of the groups found today were medium-sized, so who knows if all this animals weren't navigating towards each other to meet and re-group with a greater dimension. Also during the morning we were able to spot great skuas, velellas and one shark.


Common dolphin


Seagulls feeding on fish

To finish don't forget that if you are prone to get seasick it's better to eat dried or simple sugarless foods before the trip and/or bring a snack for the way.
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