September in Madeira typically is one of the best months of the year to enjoy sightings of large groups of Pilot whales and September 2023 was no different. We saw Pilot whales on approximately 80% of our tours! The land temperatures were still warm and sunny – perfect days to be out on a boat enjoying a cruise in the company of dolphins and whales.
Pilot whales live in families where grandma or the eldest female is the boss. We are lucky in Madeira to have resident families and even individual Pilot whales that we recognize on sight. But during September the number of families increases as Pilot whales from other parts of the Macaronesian peninsula arrive in our waters. No one is sure what the reason is for the large numbers of families that arrive at this time of the year, it could be mating, abundance of food or something else entirely. We just know it is great to be able to enjoy such amazing sightings.
Bottlenose dolphins were still seen regularly, but in smaller pods than during the summer months. We saw more of the resident coastal eco type of Bottlenose dolphins and fewer of the offshore eco type. As the largest of the beaked dolphins and one of the most acrobatic of all cetacean species, it is always a treat to encounter them.
The abundance of the Atlantic Spotted dolphins began to decline during September. While there were still many Spotted dolphins seen, the groups were smaller. This is expected at this time of the year as they prefer warm oceans and the temperatures around Madeira were just starting to cool off. We had several sightings of Spotted dolphins mixed in with Pilot whales – which was surprising! Pilot whales are often territorial with other species, but the mixed groups we encountered seemed to be relaxed and amicable.
There were more sightings of Sperm whales during September, a trend that we expect to grow into October. On the dolphin and whale watching tours we observed numerous groups of Sperm whales, some of the groups were quite large with 8-12 whales.
We also had more sightings of baleen whales, both the Bryde’s and Sei whales. These two species are hard to distinguish from one another at sea, but good photos from our crew we were able to positively identify the species of each baleen whale we saw during September. Hopefully the sightings of baleen whales continues into October as well!
The Blainville’s Beaked whales that were quite commonly seen during the summer started to become a bit more scarce. These deep diving whales, that we had been seeing in family groups of 1 male, several females and calves, were observed in smaller groups. Where do they go? No one knows…Beaked whales are largely a mystery to science and one species that we hope to learn more about. They make very long and deep dives of up to 45 minutes and 1000 meters. That makes them hard to study – but makes the sightings all the more special.
During our dolphin and whale watching tours in September we also had some encounters with rarer species – just a few lucky trips got to see; Risso’s dolphins, Striped dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins
As September 2023 comes to a close we want to thank all of our guests for choosing our tours to respectfully observe the dolphins and whales of Madeira. We hope to see you all again soon for more adventures offshore.
Thanks to our crew, Captains, Guides, Office staff and everyone who worked so hard during the month of September to make our trips something special.
October should continue with lots of Pilot whales and typically more sightings of Sperm whales – so if you will be visiting Madeira and want to join the adventure – click on the Book Now button and reserve your places.