Season review 2018

by Jörn Selling

Photos: Katharina Heyer, Jörn Selling and Antonio Reyes.

Tarifa was relatively mild in the season of 2018, the often strong "Levante" wind did not show much. Therefore we hardly had to go to the bay of Gibraltar, where despite the big environmental problems, there are still common dolphins.

When the storks move south, it means for us that the end of the season approaches They gather in the updraught,to gain height for crossing the Strait of Gibraltar First the young animals move, followed by the experienced group of adult storks.

Less free in their migration are the immigrants With luck they will be pulled out of the water in time, assembled in the harbor,where they warm up to be picked up by buses.

The tunas wander most dangerously, his way ended in the "Almadraba" Also sport fishermen pursue them, in some cases even after the quota has expiredOnly the tunas head drifts between the ship's side and the pier A source of microplastic and death (ghostfishing) drifts in the sea

Omnipresent war machinery Probably construction modules for port facilities are transported here Transport of half a ship One half is towed here"Retro" Yacht Extremely questionable way to do whale watching Does anyone know if this mural in Tarifa could be from “Banksy”?

Common dolphins

Actually the "uncommon", larger groups only exist around Malta and Gibraltar, because they are becoming rarer and rarer in the Mediterranean. We have seen them in small groups or as part of schools of striped dolphins.

Breaching, that means jumping without disconnecting the Fluke from the water, is always welcome. That happened in the Bay of GibraltarWhen they come out of the water while swimming, it's called "Porpoising" 

Striped dolphins

Striped dolphins sometimes appear in large groups in the Strait of Gibraltar. It is difficult to capture the impression on pictures because they never appear at the same time.


Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins are the most acrobatic of the dolphins. This summer many of them were seen with their ribs visible, which should not be the case with a good food supply!

Synchronized surfing Bow wave surfing 


Easily identifiable bottlenose dolphins, with free-riding barnacles and teeth marks "Whitecap" with a bitten dorsal fin and a furry coating, it could be opportunistic fungi and bacteria. This dorsal fin of "Cutty" is neither occupied nor scratched, but also blunt.

Loly with her calf of several years from the left One of the few calves, only days old

Skinny Bottlenose dolphins    

Socializing and spyhopping     Headstand of a female, see mammary gland folds

Pilot whales

We've seen pilot whales less often than in other years. Normally they swim west against the constant Atlantic-current flowing into the Mediterranean. At high tide they can relax because the current decreases, then they are further west. This summer, however, the pilot whales did not stick so much to that. Wherever they are, they prefer to move close to each other.



"Lola" is a pilot whale in whose dorsal fin a small wound has become a rotting injury. The development of the wound is reminiscent of the case of "Curro", who died at the end because of his inflammation.


From the right  

Rare observation of a mating "Willys" most precious piece shines through the water 

Also not very common among pilot whales is when they "breach". Even more rarely they jump completely out of the water.


Pilot whales spyhopping The classic: our ship is reflected on his polished forehead


The Orcas travel the Atlantic in 5 groups, less than 50 in total. They come to the Strait of Gibraltar from April to November to hunt tuna or to get their share from the fishermen. This summer we have seen little of them. It has been rumoured that the fishermen are taking aggressive actions against them once again, or that they hunted elsewhere.

Tuna fishermen at Camarinal Sill

"Morales" "Camorro""Matriarchin" "Matriarchin" Group of "Camorro" and "Lucía" In the same group was this time also the “Matriarchin”

In the foreground the Matriaechin, in the background a young animal A newly born, to be recognized by the not yet white skin 

With the fishermen With grappling hooks like this, they're supposed to attack the orcas sometimes

With a full stomach, they're more curious and more inclined to approach us

Sperm whales

2018 wasn't a good sperm whale year. There were virtually no sightings in July and August. They have always avoided the Strait of Gibraltar in midsummer, but seeing so few is disturbing.


Fin whales

The fin whales are the rarest and swim often alone or in pairs, exceptionally there are up to five. In the summer, they move out into the Atlantic. Almost all are strongly infested with parasitic blood-sucking copepods.

What looks like pockmarks could be former holes made by copepodsBoth blowholes can be seen from the frontside Two of the rare jumps that can be observed in this species

We wish everyone a good season 2019, both to the whales and their observers!

The "Strait" in motion

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