When nature shows us its abundance...
by firmm Team
Text: Sevi Golinvaux, photos : Albert Rietjens
Today is my day off and I decide to join the last trip at 4.30 pm "as a tourist".
I'm curious to see what the sea will offer us on this first day out after three long weeks of Levante, during which our boat had to stay in the harbour. When the east wind blows in the Strait of Gibraltar, the sea is very rough, and it is not possible to go out to watch whales and dolphins. This summer there were very few Levante days, it was as though the wind was trying to compensate for its long absence.
It's Friday 13 October, tomorrow is new moon, which announces a sea with big tides. This afternoon the swell has already calmed down, a veil of cloud muffles the sun's rays, which create beautiful silver reflections on the almost smooth surface of the water. Simply marvellous!
The trip starts well! After a few minutes of observation, which is enough to collect data, we leave the dolphins alone to go looking for other species.
The boat heads in the direction of some tuna fishermen. A small group of Bottlenose Dolphins swims calmly between the boats ... perhaps they are on the lookout for an opportunity to catch prey or for fish that are thrown back by the fisherme
One thing is certain: we have luck on our side, because right at this moment the fishermen pull a 1.5-metre-long tuna into the boat. I'm always amazed at how big these fish are. Even though they no longer reach the same size as they used to. Due to the massive fishing, the tuna no longer have time to age and therefore grow. In the past, fishermen in Tarifa used to come home with tuna measuring 4 metres and more.
Further south, large, black, wave-like fins break through the shiny surface of the calm sea. It is indeed a family of Pilot Whales approaching our boat. We recognise Baby Hook by the shape of her fin, which is recorded in our photo identification catalogue. The large dark grey dolphins stay close by. To our delight, they swim back and forth under the boat and in front of the bow. Far ahead, another group of Pilot Whales swims in our direction.
This time it seems to be a veritable "family gathering" that joins us: We count at least 20 to 30 fins on the surface. That means double or even triple the number of animals! Unbelievable!!!
On board, David and José and every crew member equipped with a camera are busy photographing and identifying the animals. There are so many!!! We recognise Triangula, Edu, Pedro, Nuria, Willy, Ponce and Antonio with his big back injury.
It's a surreal scene: a large pod of at least 30 Pilot Whales drifting on the surface, diving and coming back up to breathe. It's the very first time I've seen their blowhole open and close from so close. Some turn on their backs and show their pretty white cross pattern on their bellies, while occasionally greeting us with their pectoral fins.
Others stick their big round heads out to watch us with one eye. All just below the bow. Just a metre away from them, I realise once again how big they are: 6 metres, the biggest of them all. It's one thing to explain the size of marine mammals in an information talk, but seeing them in real life, and especially at such close range, remains a very moving experience.
Together with a volunteer, I bend over the whales, and they constantly move back and forth in front of the bow as if they were seeking our company. These marvellous animals, whose brain development is similar to that of humans, show self-awareness, empathy, feelings ... and when they connect, you get the impression that there is a communication going on, a "something" that passes over!
They stayed in our company for at least 20 minutes before we had to make our way back to the harbour of Tarifa.
This encounter filled me with particular joy and enthusiasm, and I realise that the passengers also expressed their appreciation and gratitude and applauded. This experience touched us all because of its uniqueness and beauty.