Back again in Tarifa
by firmm Team
Text: Christine Schmid; Fotos: firmm
After the long winter break we all returned to Tarifa and were waiting yearningly for the first encounter with the whales and dolphins in the Strait of Gibraltar. As from April 07th on a long period of wind was forecasted, Katharina decided at short notice to schedule the first tour of the season already on the 05th of April, despite the already quite strong Levante.
Shortly after 4pm the firmm-Spirit left the harbour of Tarifa. Firstly we kept near to the Spanish coast, heading in easterly direction to avoid the highest waves. As we then, at the height of Jebel Musa, drove more into the Strait of Gibraltar, we encountered a family of Pilot Whales more or less one hour after our departure. At first only the dorsal fins could be seen in the waves in quite a distance, but then the animals started approaching the boat. What a joy to see also Vicenta and Ponce in the group, together with a small calf.
We observed the whales for a while as they were swimming in a peaceful manner around the boat, when our mechanic Fernando suddenly spotted the first Sperm Whale. He didn’t hesitate to also point the animal out to the captain and Katharina. Since we were surrounded by Pilot Whales, we didn’t manage to set off immediately. Only when the Pilot Whales slowly moved away from the boat were we able to head in direction of the sighted Sperm Whale blow.
Katharina unfortunately soon realized that this animal already had dived down. Nevertheless she kept an eye out and after some minutes she already spotted the next blow. A high blow at an angle to the left only could originate from a Sperm Whale, so we accelerated. When we were only 100 meters away we drove slowly again to not disturb the animal. Quietly as a tree log the animal was lying in the water, one could only notice the calm respiration of the animal. Finally he started moving, showed first his back and then dived down, whereby his fluke was clearly visible.
We breathlessly watched the spectacle and then we continued to search for other whales and dolphins. We didn’t get far, when already two other Pilot Whales families appeared. Also this group was rather swimming quietly on both sides of our firmm-boat. This time we could even admire four calves, one of which was still very small and didn’t leave its mothers side. The Pilot Whales accompanied us for a while, when we once again saw the blow of a Sperm Whale. This time we were able to drive quickly in its direction and arrived in time; close enough to the animal, to observe it and to recognize its characteristic fluke when it was diving down.
He hardly left, when already the next one appeared not that far away. So much luck we didn’t expect on a day that started out windy. The sea was now almost smooth, the wind hardly noticeable and we enjoyed the sightings on this sunny afternoon to the fullest. When also the third Sperm Whale of the day dived down into the depths of the Strait of Gibraltar, we happily returned home.
We were already satisfied with our first trip of the season 2017; after all we had been greeted by three Sperm Whales and many Pilot Whales.But the day had not yet come to an end: while we were on the long way back to Tarifa, a small group of Bottlenose Dolphins appeared and in the midst of the way also some Striped Dolphins, jumping close to the boat. This was the perfect end of the day and one wonderful welcome-tour back in Tarifa.
We are looking forward to a wonderful season with many remarkable encounters with the Marine Mammals in the Strait of Gibraltar.