During the summer months, the Azores are an attractive place for tourists from all around the world. Not only tourists of the human kind, but also of the cetacean kind! Yesterday we encountered two such species that migrate to the Azores and show up in summer time. We started the day with multiple groups of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis); a small species of dolphin that typically greets us with energy and joy aplenty. Full of excitement they came flying out of the water, racing towards our zodiacs.


Atlantic spotted dolphin leaping in the wake of our zodiac.


In the afternoon, more Atlantic spotted dolphins made their appearance. There was a lot of socialising and mating behaviour to be seen in both the morning and midday tours. In the afternoon tour we had the pleasure to observe a nice pod of our “resident” Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis).


Atlantic spotted dolphin porpoising out of the water.


In between all the dolphins, we got news about the presence of whales in the area. Blows were sighted! We were anticipating on finding sperm whales…but what we found was completely unexpected…the whales had curved dorsal fins!!! They were not sperm whales, they were NORTHERN BOTTLENOSE WHALES! The Northern Bottlenose Whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) is the largest of the beaked whales that can be spotted in the Azores. They can reach lengths of up to almost 10 m. They are extremely good divers; regulary diving down to over 800 m, sometimes diving for 60 minutes or longer.


Northern bottlenose whale surfacing (head on the left side, dorsal fin on the right side).


Northern bottlenose whales are migratory summer visitors that are not often seen during our tours. So it was a very special sighting for all of us – crew included!! The ocean is full of wonderful surprises, big and small…


Sanne Bakkers

About Sanne Bakkers

Sanne Bakkers is a cetacean biologist with a Master's degree in Marine Mammal Science. She started working in the whale watching community in 2018, and is now working as a marine wildlife guide at Terra Azul. She likes being on the ocean, photography, educating others, and making them fall in love with marine life.

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