Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Exploring the underwater world of the Azores

This morning we set out to swim with dolphins out in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, in the Azores! Just outside our base in Ponta Delgada we encountered several groups of common dolphins, each group of a different size and with a different behaviour. We managed to get a few nice swims with the different groups and we also observed them above water, including some tiny babies leaping out of the waves. But today it wasn't just dolphins that we got to swim with. We had a small swimming group and time spare time after the dolphins had moved on, so we went towards the coastline to snorkel around the rocks and observe some local fish species. It was a beautiful experience being surrounded by many different species, as if we were inside a natural aquarium. Some of the fish, like the ornate wrasse, are very brightly coloured so it was nice to see the contrast of them against the dark backdrop of the black lava stone walls. We also spotted many bright red seastars scattered along the bottom. It was really a unique experience this morning, exploring the underwater world of the Azores!

Some photos of the snorkeling:

One of our clients snorkeling

A bearded fireworm

Starfish everywhere!

A blenny resting on a rock ledge

Beautiful rock layers created by the forces of mother nature

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A lucky strike in the mist

This morning we went whale and dolphin watching in the mist. The low cloud that was hanging over the island made the job of spotting animals more difficult for our lookouts. Nevertheless they did find us some nice common dolphins and a few bottlenose dolphins near the coastline. The whales were further out so it was a lucky strike that we managed to find a sperm whale out there for ourselves. We went out with our catamaran and a zodiac and after not too long waiting we spotted a low blow. It was the characteristic blow of a sperm whale! We watched the adult female at the surface for a while, until it raised its tail high out of the water to start a deep feeding dive. This sperm whale is one that we already know, she is called Marble and we first saw her the 15th of October, 2010. She got her beautiful name from one of our clients. What a lucky strike to be able to find this sperm whale out there in the mist!

Bottlenose dolphin

Sperm whale logging

Sperm whale diving

Bye bye Marble!

Common dolphin

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A weekend with a whale and dolphins

Our weekend here in São Miguel, Azores started with a sperm whale that we have come to know very well. We call him Mr Liable, coming from the word reliable. We have given him this name because he is reliable in terms of regularly returning to São Miguel island, making regular dives of the same duration throughout the day so that we can predict when he will resurface, and best of all he is reliable in showing us his beautiful big tail every time he goes on a deep dive. We have been seeing Mr Liable here for many years and by now he has become a large mature bull at least 16 m in length. Throughout the weekend we also saw plenty of dolphins. On Sunday there was no sign of any sperm whales in the area anymore, but our clients did enjoy the company of several groups of common dolphins and a nice boat ride on a sunny morning. It sure is great being in the company of these beautiful dolphins and our swimmers were able to enjoy this from a different point of view - under water. On Saturday the common dolphins were also around, as well as a group of bottlenose dolphins. What a great way to spend a weekend!

Mr Liable in our fluke catalogue. We can easily recognise him from the marks on his tail

Photos from Sunday's tour:

Three dolphins - a mating group "playing around" our catamaran Cetus

The three surfacing together

A Manx shearwater taking off - a slightly more rare bird skilfully spotted by one of our zodiac clients

Going to check our an extinct volcanic crater in the ocean - Vila Franca Islet

Aboard Cetus

Arriving back to our base in Ponta Delgada

Friday, October 24, 2014

A lucky and sunny day with our residents

Today, in the morning we went out after almost a week of being onshore due to bad weather in the past week. At  9h00, 3 of our boats were ready for the adventure; one for swimming with dolphins and the other 2 boats for the whale watching activity. We were lucky to hear early in the morning that our lookout found whales. At least a group of 6 sperm whales, our resident ones! On our way to the whale area, we could observe two more species; common dolphins and Risso´s dolphins. We had a good start with the group of common dolphins. It was small but sociable group, mostly juveniles swimming next to our zodiac boat. Then, we left the area to go towards the whales but once more we stopped the boat, this time to visit our Rissos´s dolphins. They are so beautiful, and therefore every trip we have unique encounters. After that, we continued travelling to the east side of the island and after some minutes waiting for them to appear at the surface, we could observe a mother and a calf breathing together. It is beautiful to see the strong bond between individuals, specially between mother and calf. Coming back to Ponta Delgada, we could still see one more species, the bottlenose dolphins. These intelligent dolphins were surfing the waves and going in front of our catamaran to bowride. It was an amazing morning with all the resident whale and dolphin species.

In the afternoon, we resighted the bottlenose dolphins and the sperm whales. We had lots of sperm whales on the surface socializing and being very curious towards our catamaran. We had a group of at least five or six next to us. We only got to see one fast tail, but the encounter was so amazing without tails that is was worth a sperm whale's weight in gold.  

Photos from the morning:
One of the flukes from the morning

One of the sperm whales we saw in both the morning and afternoon

This individual is easy to recognise from the markings on its side

Watching a sperm whale from aboard our catamaran

A curious sperm whale calf

Watching bottlenose dolphins

Photos from the afternoon:

A group of 6 sperm whales grouping up in the afternoon

One of our lookouts high up on the clifftop - our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Thanks to the skills of our lookouts today we got to see the whales!
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