Cetacean Watching in the Canaries

Mecca for Whale Watching and Dolphin Spotting

The South West of Tenerife,  Los Gigantes, region is internationally know as a permanent home and temporary feeding ground for a big selection of whales and dolphins. The species you are most likely to encounter are the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Long Finned Pilot Whale. Onboard our sailing ships Bessie Ellen or Grayhound are books and display sheets helping you identify all the wildlife you see around you, cetaceans, fish and birds and the crew have a strong interest in wildlife and are very knowledgeable having spent years working at sea.

Bottlenosed Dolphins: The Bottlenosed Dolphins appear to be grinning as they ride the bow wave and play with each other speeding through the water. If you study them closely as they swim beside Bessie Ellen you can look for distinguishing marks on the fins or around the head.
Spotted Dolphin and Common Dolphin: These are the acrobats of the ocean, leaping and flying through the air they make some of the most spectacular displays you can imagine.

Dolphins in clear Canaries seas. Photo by Volker
Dolphins in clear Canaries seas. Photo by Volker

Long Finned Pilot Whale: Some distance from the accelerated pace of the Dolphins the Pilot Whales can often be seen as they lie almost motionless at the water’s surface. A pod of these larger cetaceans have chosen the Los Gigantes area as their permanent home. The Pilot Whale pod can often stretch over many miles of ocean.  The larger males act as guardians at the outer edges of the pod. The groups most often seen are the nursery pods.  This includes mothers with their young and adolescent females that take turns in “babysitting” the younger animals. The pods stay in touch with each other using a complicated sonar communication system that is made up of click’s, whistles and squeals.

pilot whales in the Canaries
pilot whales in the Canaries

Other Whales: The Canaries lies on the migration route of many whales and at various times it is possible to see Sperm Whales, Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Right Whales, Minke Whales and the very rare Blainvilles Toothed Whale.
Turtles: Loggerhead Turtles are the most common seen in the Canaries and to witness one of these amazing creatures alongside Bessie Ellen would be a real treat. There are no breeding sites for turtles in the Canaries but leatherbacks have been seen on some of the islands beaches in recent times.
Manta Rays: These graceful flying machines of the ocean are found in the Canaries but sightings of them from the surface are not so common but you might be lucky snorkelling.

Watch Keeping & Wildlife

Sailing often requires that you are split into watches, this always happens on ocean passages and sails of more than a daytime in length. Part of any watch is the lookout duty as all vessels under way are required by maritime law to keep a good and effective lookout at all times.
To many people this may seem a bit pointless in the waters off the Canaries when all you can see is the ocean around you. Not so. The harder you look at the sea the more you will see. The sea can change colour as a result of what’s in it, the effect of wind and changes in the wind strength, the swell and wave patterns, the reflections from clouds above and creatures in it. Did you know albatross and gannets have a sense of smell, not many birds do, and they use it to find shoals of fish? I myself have smelt shoals of sardines and moments later been rewarded by the sight of a flock of gannets diving into the shoal. If you really lucky this feeding frenzy might have dolphins amongst the feeders.

As you get to understand what the sea looks like it makes it easier to spot something that’s different, a small storm petrel or the fin of a whale. Once spotted you can alert others and all get to see the wildlife about you.

lookout duty on Europa
lookout duty on Europa

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