Review July and August 2015

by firmm Team

Text: Katharina and Christine, Photos: firmm

Usually the orca season starts when the orcas swim through the Strait of Gibraltar, displacing all Bottlenose Dolphins and Pilot Whales for a start…. So the Strait of Gibraltar is then simply empty, regarding other whales. We met the orcas surprisingly and unusually close to Tarifa on their way back to the underwater mountains. We saw sixteen orcas, and on a only two hours lasting tour!

That caused us a lot of work and commotion, as from now we have to plan also the three hours lasting tours.

On the next day our job was to find the orcas again in temporarily empty Strait of Gibraltar, as there was no other marine mammal to see! With luck we could meet small groups of Striped Dolphins which are faster swimmers than the orcas. But thanks to the good collaboration between our two boats we were able to find the orcas again and again during the nine hours of this day! And so an excellent new orca season started and is lasting until today.

On July 10th we even saw the oldest male, Camacho, together with the old grandmother Matriarchin. Also the youngest calf, Baby Wilson, who was born last year in October.

Camacho Matriarchin Baby Wilson 

On July 20th:
On this day two orca sightings will be unforgettable: The first was in the middle of the Moroccan fishing boats, where the orcas are steeling the tunas from the hooks of the fishermen. This is every time a long and exhausting fight for the fishermen in their small boats.

Orcas circuit a fisherboat Fisherman with tuna 

Later this day we had planned another three hours tour from 6pm to 9pm, and we wondered if the orcas would still be there even on such a late time.
But lo and behold! Our excellent scout Eduardo found them after a while in the middle of the Atlantic, away from the stress of the fishing and completely relaxed: ten orcas, including Camorro the young male and another two youngsters who seemed to be curious and where cruising around our boat.

Orca baby in front of our boat The family of Camorro Head and fluke of two orcas 

On July 29th we were not so lucky with the orcas. Even if the area was full of fishing boats, there were no orcas around. In this case we are used to go to another area where the dolphins and pilot whales are supposed to be. And suddenly, a rare visitor for the month of July appeared: A sperm whale! This was a really amazing substitute for the not sighted orcas!

Sperm whale Fluke of a sperm whale 

On 1st of August we lived another sensational experience: after some interesting orca sightings we approached a group of fishing boats. The orcas where fascinating us on the right side of the boat, when suddenly a fin whale emerged only 50 meters away from us, and continued swimming slowly on the left side of our boat. This is something that never had happened before in all these years, that we had a fin whale so close to the boat and at the same time six orcas on the other side of the boat! With us just in the middle!

Fin whale Fin whale Orca-Male 

In our datasheets I can see that on August 8th we also had an extraordinary tour: It was quite wavy, Levante with wind force 3 Bf., not really the best conditions. Many fishermen were out over the underwater mountains of Camarinal. They call this area “Las Bajas”. We met several single groups of orcas evenly spread over the area. The tunas were biting a lot, as all the fishermen had at least one or two tunas on their boats, or were pulling one to the boat. This is often a very special show! In this case, the orcas are used to win and the fishermen only find the tuna head or including nothing on their hooks when they pull them out of the water. On this day, Morales, the third male, Camorro and the old Matriarch were in the group that was giving a hard time to the fishermen.

Morales Camorro Moroccan fisherboat with tuna 

After an, until now, incredible summer, we are very curious about the last weeks of August and about September.

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