Pilot whales are a resident species that can be seen throughout the year on tours from Funchal, on the island of Madeira.

Pilot Whale

Globicephala macrorhynchus

Short Finned Pilot whales are one of the resident cetacean species in Madeira. They can be seen on Madeira dolphin and whale watching tours all year but are most abundant between September through November. They live in family groups that are led by the oldest female. Each group has its own unique cultures, dialects, traditions and habits – very similar to human beings in our family groups.

Pilot whales are a resident species in Madeira and one of the most commonly seen cetacean species.

Species Information

Pilot whales can be seen all year round offshore of the island of Madeira on our tours.
  • Length: males 5.5 meters and females 3.7 meters

  • Weight: males up to 2,300 kg and females up to 1,300 kg

  • Lifespan: males up to 45 years and females up to 65 years

  • Diet: mostly deep water squid and octopus

Sightings data on Pilot whale pods seen around Madeira island.


Sightings of Pilot whales can really show how different encounters can be with a single species. During the mornings we often see them swimming very slowly at the surface in tight groups. They often feed at night so mornings can be a good time for a little rest. When we see them later in the day, or if there are ocean swells, they are very different! They seem to enjoy riding the waves in the open seas and can be quite social, even mixing with the Bottlenose dolphins.

Pilot Whale Sightings Data