Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A day with the biggest animal on Earth: the blue whale

Have you ever seen the biggest animal that has ever existed on the face of the Earth? We did! The last time.. this morning! 

Amazing sighting of a blue whale. It was far from the coast, but the long travel was worth it. We saw this whale several times, blowing high and strong. And when you realize how big it can be. 

Much bigger than our catamarans, the tongue with the size of an elephant, and the heart as a small car. So difficult to understand its size without a real reference beside. Too big to be real, but it is, and we saw it! 

Where will she go? We guess further north, but who knows? We are looking forward to check our photos and compare them with other places to find out!

The afternoon tour was very much like the morning. We went far offshore to see a very big blue whale. This impressive big blue whale showed itself very well, a couple of times even almost lifting its tail out of the water. 

We also had bottlenose dolphins closer to shore. In fact, they were everywhere, spread out over a large area!

We also saw some common dolphins, and our guests swam with them.

Overall, it was a great day!


In Pico island, the ocean was extremely serene in the morning - but full of life! The sea welcomed us with a numerous pod of bottlenose dolphins scattered all around us, jumping over the glass mirrored waves - making us feel within an 'alive painting'! - and showing us some social behaviours between them! At this point every child on board was captivated!

After seeing this resident species quite well, we roamed southwards to find two wonderful blue whales travelling together. They were going pretty fast, taking quick and few breathings during each time at the surface. We were able to see them quite well thanks to their amazing blows, the turquoise blue water and their nostrils bigger than our heads! So, after understanding this behaviour we saw them once more just to be able to keep them in our hearts and started navigating closer to the shore. 

Our spotter saw a pod of Risso's dolphins closer to the shore and in this males pod we were able to identify one juvenile in between the big and white adults! Maybe he didn’t join this pod for a long time. With photo ID, we are able to understand this question and much more.
After a beautiful morning, a perfect weather forecast for tomorrow awaits us where we and the sea meet again. Who will join us?

All you need to know about swimming with dolphins in the Azores

Swimming with dolphins is a unique experience that is life changing for many people.

In the Azores this activity is particularly rewarding as you will swim:
- Out in the clear blue ocean:
    • You should realise that we operate in the open ocean. The dolphins are often far from the coastline in deep and unsheltered waters. 

- With dolphins that are completely wild and free:

    • All the dolphins we swim with are completely wild! Please note that the dolphins do what they want when they want, we must respect that. We may observe a variety of natural behaviours and hear their communication. Although, we can’t guarantee interaction. We try our best to ensure that everybody has at least three chances to see the dolphins under water.

Swimming with dolphins is made with the maximum respect for the animals and not in an intrusive way. We will be following the rules of the ethic code.

Rules and Codes of Conduct 

Futurismo is proud to be a Partner of the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA): the world’s largest Partnership working to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). 
To protect the dolphins in this activity, we follow the rules of conduct defined by the Regional Government of the Azores and the World Cetacean Alliance. (Decreto Legislativo Regional Nº 10/2003/A de 22 March)
 Below is the description:
1 - Swimming with whales is strictly forbidden;
2 - The decision to put swimmers in the water and the distance from the animals is a responsibility of the captain of the vessel and must take into account the welfare of the animals and the swimmers;
3 - Vessels that have swimmers in the water must have a second crew member (marine biologist) apart from the captain who is responsible to keep watch for the swimmers and animals ensuring their welfare;
4 - Each vessel is limited to three attempts of releasing swimmers. If the animals show signs of avoidance they must be left alone;
5 - The swimmers, always wearing snorkel equipment, and never in a number above two, must keep together in a radius of 50 meters around the vessel; intentional physical contact with animals is strictly forbidden; movements must be slow and noises avoided;
6 - Swimmers must not stay in the water with the animals for longer than 15 minutes at a time;
7 - While there are swimmers in the water the engine must be disengaged;
8 - The recovery of the swimmers must be made with minimal disturbance to the animals, keeping a distance of at least 50 meters from them.


    What to expect from the activity:

    • We go to the ocean in small groups with a zodiac boat;
    • This trip is led by a one of our qualified marine biologists and a trainned skipper that understand dolphins behaviours;
    • Each trip is preceded by a briefing that explains how we swim with wild dolphins while respecting them, how to enter the water and behave around the dolphins.
    • We provide masks, snorkels and wetsuits, but if you are used to your own, bring it with you!

Swimming rules and guidelines:

Respecting the dolphins: Top priority!
Finding them: We don’t use any kind of sonars! We use lookouts. They are our “trick” to find dolphins. They are strategically placed in high spots with powerful binoculars and they can see around 45 km out of land. After finding the animals, they indicate their position to the boat via radio.
Approaching them: No hurry! Rush is the enemy of perfection! Before we start the activity, we observe the behavior of the dolphins. If they are curious, we begin our activity. We approach calmly and people only get into the water when the dolphins are in a good position to be observed. 

Swimming with them: They are in their home, we are just visitors! 
    • Only two people are allowed to enter into the water at the same time while having a maximum of 3 chances to see the dolphins.
    • When the dolphins show being displeased with our presence, the activity ends. If dolphins do not want to swim with us, we cannot force them to stay.
    • This activity just depends on the dolphins' will. If they don’t want to swim, we will try to find another group. If we don’t, we cancel the activity and we change it to another day.

Golden Rule: This activity requires some physical and psychological strength. Listen to your guide advises!
    • You must know how to swim: There are currents and you cannot see the sea bottom.
    • You must practice the use of a mask and snorkel: To see the dolphins under water, you must use a mask and snorkel. Strap must be tight and your hair should be free from the front and sides of the mask (If you have any eye problems, bring your contact lens or a special mask).
    • Entering the water: When the skipper says “go”, you must slide smoothly into the water. The dolphins can easily be frightened by the noise when we splash. Just relax and enjoy the show.
    • Watching the dolphins: Remember to look down, inside the water, while breathing calmly through the snorkel.
    • If you have to use glasses to see: It is better to bring contact lenses or your own adequate personal mask.

We have our responsibility term to read and sign during the check-in:
    • This activity is not recommended for children under 8 years old.
    • Children should always be accompanied by an adult.
    • To be more comfortable aboard, we advise you to take only what is necessary for the activity (raincoat, towel and flip-flops). Everything that is not required should be left in the store.
    • You can bring your camera and cell-phone if properly packaged (prevent wet with splashes, rain, etc).
    • It is forbidden to consume alcoholic drinks aboard.
    • Smoking is forbidden aboard. 


Article by Mariana Silva, Marine Biologist

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sperm whales to cheer us up on a rainy day

We are finishing the month of April very well! Today, although we had some rain and the visibility wasn't very good, we were able to see 3 out of the 4 resident species here in the Azores. 

In the morning, we started the trip with a huge group of bottlenose dolphins. These were very active and traveling with the boats. In the area, we estimated to have more than 200 individuals, a huge group! 

Then, we saw our common dolphins, also a huge group. At first, the common dolphins were calm but then very active! 

After leaving the dolphins area, our lookouts couldn't see any more species. So on the catamaran Cetus, we went for a spin to see if we could find anything else, and our captain Mario spotted a blow: it was a sperm whale! At first we thought it was our famous Mr. Liable! A few minutes after arriving to the area, he fluked and shown his beautiful tail! But then, later on, when we saw the pictures we realized that it was not the same tail than our belove Mr Liable.

In the afternoon, we got to see the bottlenose dolphins and the common dolphins once again! The bottlenose dolphins were in socialization and the common dolphins were very active to take great leaps! Let's see what awaits us tomorrow!

One week of whale watching in Pico

The season at Pico Island started in the best way possible! During the past few days we were with several groups of female sperm whales accompanied by calves swimming next to the adult females, switching in between them as they were leaving the surface one by one to engage on deep foraging dives. 

During one of the trips, we had the opportunity to observe them in the same area as Sei whales that were passing by during their migration.

In another different trip, we also saw sperm whales sharing the same area with Risso’s dolphins. One of these mornings, our lookout saw one really big blow from a sperm whale. We went to check it out and it was this amazingly big male individual. Afterwards we understood that he was swimming in the same direction as a female group that was some miles ahead of him.

Common dolphins have been also present in every trip and sometimes they appeared accompanied by striped dolphins. We spotted several small juveniles and calves of both species swimming together with adult dolphins.

During our swimming with dolphins activities, our guests had the chance to go inside the water with Risso’s Dolphins and also with common dolphins. Despite their shy behaviour, some of the resident groups of Risso’s enable us to get inside the water to observe them closer and they are a truly beautiful species. Several individuals of the males groups are almost completely white. We can notice this amazing pattern as they swim quite calmly and steadily underneath us.

Now that spring weather is arriving to Pico, along our marine mammal search we have been able to find several loggerhead turtles which we kept admiring for some minutes. In our swimming with dolphins trips, our guests can swim close to them. Most of the times, fish hide underneath them, searching for some protection while they stay near the surface catching some sun rays.

A portuguese Man-o-war

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