The season 2014 – a review

by Jörn Selling

Pictures: Katharina Heyer, Jörn Selling, Sebastian Kanzler and Eduardo Montano Peralta

In 2014 Tarifa showed its calmest side since 1998. There was hardly one day with the infamous, strong „levante“wind – just one week in spring made us fear that the previous year could be repeated. Therefore we were not in the Bay of Gibraltar, where the big shoals of flying fish gather in autumn. Hundreds of common and striped dolphins work together as a team to hunt them and according to eyewitnesses also sea birds and tuna fish benefited from that spectacle.

Before we show you the most spectacular pictures of the different species that are speaking for themselves, some curiosities that took place during the season:

Greetings from Türkey Ghost ship Honeymoon cruise Sunfish 

Common dolphins

Because they only can be found in big numbers in the bay of Gibraltar, we just saw them in smaller groups, and mostly as part of striped dolphin schools

 At the bow Mother with calf Calm sea 

Socializing Accelerating Surfing 

Striped dolphins

In summer they turned around lots of our boat trips, when the pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins disappeared. That happens every year, but luckily there were hundreds of striped dolphins swimming in big schools in the Strait of Gibraltar. In these huge groups there is always something to see because the animals have more companions to play with and they tease each other.

Closely together Always something going on 

Older animal Mother with calf In the balance backwards-breaching 


Big school with Tarifa in the distance Socializing Skin disorder 

Bottlenose dolphins

The bottlenose dolphins are the most acrobatic of all dolphins and especially in the springtime in a good mood. Much better than a forced show in a dolphinarium is their voluntary show they sometimes do close to the boat. The surface of the water is rarely as smooth as shown in the first three pictures

Calm water surface   





The following series show that also spy hopping and tail slapping belongs to their behavioural repertoire



Tailslapping on the back     




Surfing is one of the bottlenose dolphins favourite games and the bow waves of boats are just perfect for that – the gained momentum helps them to jump splendidly


what the guests on board love to see the most





We’re especially pleased about the calves that usually swim close to their mothers. When they’re particularly small they are often flanked by a second adult, so they get sucked between them




Pilot whales

The pilot whales usually swim slowly and therefore seem to be relaxed – but they also like surfing, just like all the other species of dolphins. In their social interactions they often integrate the bottlenose dolphins.

Relaxed    Sunbathing 

Surfen A friendly get together Mixed school Pedro, Edu and Babyhook Zackzack 

And they always keep an eye on us, if necessary also by means of spyhopping



Ship is reflected on the head   Another reflection of the ship  

The opposite of spy hopping would be fluking


Another popular exercise is floating, which means swimming on the back






Calves, which are more curious than the adults, often approach the boat

With birth stripes     





Orcas normally move in smaller groups


In their element Orca or shark? Young male full of scratches 

Among them there once again was the matriarch, also called Tony


and two well-known males: Morales and the “Carefree” of last year

Morales   The "Carefree"  

They come to the Strait of Gibraltar to hunt for tuna

Hunting thuna fishes with Tarifa - and the Moses Mountain in the background Fish flee from tuna  

Panic stricken little fish Zoomed in Spectacle beside the stern 

or to get their share from the fishermen

The pod circles the boat and moves on 

Young male in ambush Together of necessity Too small to die, the fish 

Outcome uncertain    


Do they already have our fish in their mouth? Just got the gill cover Left over only the gill cover Catch on board Greeting 

enjoying it with great pleasure afterwards

Eating and relaxing   Big fish without gill cover 

Mouth of a tuna inside the mouth of an orca Two argue Mother and calf share the meal Swim bladder 

Piece of a big thuna     


Obviously they don’t reject sea birds either


While the adults are feeding, the babies sometimes spend their time close to our boat

Baby Wilson on 21.08    



After feeding comes the joy for life and the conspecifics


Happy calf    




Sometimes also with the related boisterousness







Sperm whales

2014 was the best year for sperm whales so far. The direction of the wind seems to be a possible reason for that: In our database we see that in summers with a lot of levante (east wind) we see fewer sperm whales. In 2014 we mostly had poniente (west wind) and almost every day we had Sperm Whale sightings.

Sometimes even in groups of up to four animals

Two friends     



Three friends   

Four friends     

Like all the other whales they sometimes swim on their backs, stand in the water vertically or do tailslapping

On the back   

Again and again he beats  the water with his fluke  





In rare cases they pay attention to us, like this one, who approached the bow of our boat,





And they seem to make other whales curious – especially pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins



But also sea birds are attracted to sperm whales

  More and more seabirds are coming until the Sperm whales 

had enough and disappeared    


The highlight for the guests is usually when the sperm whales dive off. First they rise their head,

   This one seems to shed his skin 

then they bend their back



and finally they lift their enormous tale fluke and you can hear the releases of the cameras on board




While they prepare their dive it can occur that they "relieve" themselves



This one seemed to be in a hurry    


Fin whales

In 2014 we sighted about the same number of fin whales as in the year before. They normally travel alone, maximal five animals within a group. With a few exceptions they travel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic ocean during summer




10 -30 cm long eel-like parasites In front of the sanddune of Punta Paloma

Fin whales have a white colour in the area of their throat


Injured animals

Like every summer there are not just good things to talk about. There were injuries caused by sports fishermen, as well as old and new acquaintances with their illnesses. Among the slower swimming pilot whales the typical injuries come from the fishermen with the white yachts

Repectless big game fishermen     

or injuries we do not know where they’re coming from

Injury course unknown Vicenta Vicenta alike 

Among the bottlenose dolphins there are less human caused injuries, but other inconveniences that are not less dangerous


Calf with bump  

The poor thing rattled loudly with its mouth, as if to draw attention as last year, when this one was doing the same. Was it the same from last year? 

Among the striped dolphins the sad story with the piece of plastic inside the mouth occurred, although these agile animals usually just play with the plastic waste

Striped dolphin with plastic strap in his mouth Bottlenose is playing with plastic bag  

Also this sun fish which swims more rough than ready, got a punch on his nose


Sperm whales often get injured during their hunt for giant squids by the animals sharp claws that form part of their suction cups. And when they rest or sleep on the surface they sometimes get hit by ships

Scar of giant squid? Bruised nose  

Looks like scratch of a ship, like this scratch Deep notch behind the dorsal fin, also caused by a ship 


At the end some impressions of the wildlife above our heads

Company while cruising Flamingos Day moon 


Shearwater Birds fighting for parts of fishl   

We hope that we will have a good season in 2015, which started in the Easter week. We already had good sightings of Bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales and sperm whales. Even the orcas must be around – that’s what the fishermen told us!

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