The entry of the Pilot Whales after the Levante

by firmm Team

Text: Sonja Van Den Bossche and Katharina Heyer; Photos: firmm

This year we already had the luck to encounter an unusually large number of Pilot Whales several times. First at the beginning of the season, more precisely on April 14th, when we saw 150 Pilot Whales divided among several groups.

This was surpassed on May 15th with the sighting of 200 Pilot Whales. On the 13th of June we saw 180 animals and on the 15th of June 120, on this day there were also five newborns. The remarkable thing is that this high number of animals was each time spotted during one two-hour trip and not distributed throughout the whole day.

With one exception, these large groups were always sighted after days of intense Levante. They came from the Mediterranean where they like to spend the Levante days; especially when they have young ones and want to take them away from the high waves.

Read here how our volunteer Sonja experienced one of these days

Three days of Levante separated us from our whales and dolphins in the Strait of Gibraltar. But today we can finally sail again. And we and our guests have high expectations for the upcoming tours. Bingo!

Our second trip of the day at 4 pm starts with Bottlenose Dolphins, jumping in front of a cargo ship far away. Soon there’s a small pod of bottlenose dolphins close to the firmm Vision and another freighter ship approaching our boat. Katharina comments: ‘The dolphins will now search for the bow waves of this big ship and start bowriding.’ So said, so done: immediately after this, one of them is leaping high up in the air in front of the cargo vessel nearby.

Later on we don’t have to go far to find another species of marine mammals living here, a small family of Pilot Whales. And before we know it, we’re completely surrounded by a very large group of Pilot Whales.

This happens to us for the second time this whale watching season just after a Levante break. But with 200 animals altogether today we’re doing much better than a couple of weeks ago, when we “only” spotted 150 individuals. Moreover, it’s incredible that such a large amount of the Pilot Whale population here is currently present and that actually, we’re (uninvited) guests at a huge Pilot Whale gathering in the open sea!

Sometimes they’re lying perfectly motionless on the surface and we can hear them breathe in and out. They’re whistling loudly all the time… Anyhow, recreation and other activities are important as well. Some Pilot Whales are quite curious and can often be seen spyhopping. Others are splashing around or rolling in the calm water. One is swimming on its back for a very long time, showing us its tail fluke. It feels at ease with us and seems to be waving at us. And the bottlenose dolphins are still here, expressing their satisfaction with the serene atmosphere by jumping up and getting down from time to time.

„There are a few well known animals in the group: Oliver, a large male, Sierra and Pomares. And many young ones“, says Katharina proudly.

Gradually part of the Pilot Whale family is swimming slowly towards our boat. ‘Visión submarina,’ we hear Katharina recommend enthusiastically. ‘It’s now or never! ‘I think to myself and quickly run downstairs. Looking through the four little underwater windows – first on the right, then on the left side – I can’t believe my eyes and ears. There are large, black bodies everywhere around me, making a loud whistling noise, stronger than before. I can even notice their skin scars in different shapes left by ship propellers, fishing lines and nets. Simultaneously one of the passengers utters her admiration: ‘Great!’

After having stayed with the Pilot Whales for about half an hour, we secretly hope that Katharina will forget about time, but she doesn’t: „It’s time to say goodbye to the whales and dolphins now. We have to go back to Tarifa..“

We’re already looking forward to our next excursions with firmm, because the sea has so much more to offer….

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