On a gloriously sunny December’s day, whilst holidaying in Tenerife, I was fortunate to have my closest ever encounters with pods of both short-finned pilot whale (globicephala macrorynchus) and bottlenose dolphins. Cetaceans are mammals like us, giant creatures and yet unbelievably graceful in their element that it is always magical experience to gain a fleeting glimpse into a mysterious life that is so very very different from our own.
I had taken a similar trip once many years ago and had only a distant and fleeting sighting, so that was what I was expecting again this time. I was quick to grab a backlit fairly distant shot at the first sight of a pilot whale dorsal fin. The notches and marks on a cetacean’s dorsal fin are unique to every individual and are used as key identifying marks for scientists researching the pilot whale pods in Tenerife
But this time, I was in luck, the pilot whale pod ventured much, much closer. As I watched them spout water from their blowholes the droplets were refracted into a beautiful rainbow through the sunlight. Then a mature pilot whale swam right across the bow of the boat enabling a top down shot through sunlit dappled water into the sea.
After a last look at the pilot whales we moved on in search of the bottlenose dolphins. Once again we were in luck and watched a small family exhibiting fascinating group hunting behaviour. The dolphin pod was working as an organised team in herding a shoal of fish, much in the way a collie might herd a flock of sheep, curving round in arcs and keeping them tightly packed together in a group. The group worked closely as a co-ordinated team to keep the shoal of fish close together. Then individual dolphins would take it in turns to nip in for a quick snack. There were several calves in the group which may well have been observing this complex team hunting and learning the feeding technique in preparation for adulthood.