Looking back on the short season of 2020

by Katharina Heyer

Photos and films: firmm

With a delay of three months, the season started due to Corona on the 01st of July and ended already on the 07th of September.

When arriving in Tarifa, a completely deserted port presented itself, no buses, no people rushing around, only one FRS ferry, which did not move the whole year.

With great effort our team in Tarifa introduced the hygienic measures in all three firmm-offices.

The VISION was also adapted to the corona rules by the boat crew. Masks were compulsory during the whole boat trip, fever measurements before the trip and alcohol spray on all hands, from young and old.

The introductory lectures were held by our staff and by the biologist in all four languages, as we did not have any volunteers. The number of tourists ranged between 40-50% of last year's guests. Most of them were Spanish holiday guests. Travellers from the north were only sporadically on the boat. This was also evident during the charlas:

Edeltraud, who always gave lectures to huge German groups, only had tiny ones.

The English lectures were also small, only the Spanish groups were slightly larger (in the background).

Adoptions were less frequent, as personal encounters with the whales and dolphins were missing.

Even though we only made about 100 trips (instead of 518 as last year), we still had many unusual and special sightings.

The following chart, made by Jörn, our marine biologist, shows how many sightings we have had of each species:

Sightings from the 01st of July until the 07th of September

Species 2019 2020 percentage
Pilot Whale 1368 297 56,6 %
Bottlenose Dolphin 455 95 18,1 %
Striped Dolphin 232 72 13,7 %
Common Dolphin 109 31 5,9 %
Sperm Whale 293 14 2,7 %
Orca 21 8 1,5 %
Fin Whale 40 8 1,5 %
Total 2519 526

We often met the Common Dolphins off Tarifa, also in larger groups. Especially at sunset they delighted us with lively performances.

It is also always a pleasure to accompany the Striped Dolphins.

The Bottlenose Dolphins loved to surprise us with their jumps or by showing us their young ones.

In August they already welcomed us in the port of Tarifa, to where they had made a short excursion before continuing along the coast.

We saw the Pilot Whales in large groups, mostly with their calves. They came trustfully close to the boat or they loved to swim underneath.

An unusual show was offered when a Pilot Whale jumped out of the water several times.

Even though I do not particularly love the "Hileros del Sur" (high waves from the south), as it is almost impossible to announce in 3-4 languages, the animals have a special way of enjoying themselves and surf past us at high speed.

Read here the blog about the Hileros.

On the 10th of July we were in vain on our search for Orcas, when we met a Sperm Whale that was completely tangled up in a fishing net. He appeared uncontrolled next to the boat. It was a sad sight. As strong Levante was about to come up, divers would not have had a chance to find him again or even save him.

Heart-Whale Congratulation

My birthday party was cancelled this year, nobody wanted to meet in big groups. Nevertheless, I got a wonderful congratulations card from Nicolas von Büren, one of the few Swiss children who were initially in Tarifa before the quarantine regulations came into force.

On the 02nd ofAugust we finally got to see the Orcas.

On the 03rd of August, cheers broke out when Baby Wilson, our most popular sponsored animal, jumped completely out of the water.

After having eaten from the fishermen, they quickly retreated into the Atlantic Ocean together, as can be seen on this YouTube video.

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In the course of August we saw Sperm Whales quite often and we could watch many of them diving down in a spectacular manner.

On the 10th of August we witnessed a unique spectacle: two Sperm Whales were swimming close to each other for quite a while, when suddenly one of them jumped out of the water.

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Then one of them lay down vertically, before they both dived down.

There were also several other sightings: either turtles in the water or storks in the sky!

We have also spotted Fin Whales. Eight times we were able to accompany 1-2 animals.

At the end of August the GP Challenge 2020-crew, consisting of seven men, arrived in Tarifa. On the 26th of August they accompanied us on a boat trip on the VISION to see the whales and dolphins.

On the 27th of August, the VISION was able to accompany them as they set off for their long journey.

Fortunately we were able to experience many impressive sightings during this short summer. Now we are looking forward to the new year 2021 and hope to see many of you in Tarifa.

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