A special encounter
Even after more than 100 whale watching trips in the same area there are still encounters that leave you speechless. Every tour is different: the weather conditions vary greatly, you never know if you will encounter any whales or dolphins and if you encounter them it’s not guaranteed that they are open for an encounter with a boat. So it is a special stroke of luck when you encounter THREE different species in glassy calm sea conditions as happened to us on 18 December off the coast of La Gomera, Canary Islands. And as if that was not enough, our small Canary fisher boat was the only vessel in the vicinity!
First of all, we encountered a group of short-finned pilot whales, a resident species in the waters around the Canary Islands. Then our guide discovered a blow in the distance, most likely from a large baleen whale! Our last sighting of a large whale was two weeks before, a Bryde’s whale. We were very curious to find out if the blow belonged to another Bryde’s whale, or maybe a fin or sei whale? These species are difficult to tell apart if only seen briefly or from a distance. But when the whale surfaced closer to us, we were lucky enough to see the right side of the head which was almost white, meaning we had an encounter with the second-largest whale species on this planet, a fin whale. He was swimming peacefully in close proximity to the pilot whales and was accompanied by a group of bottlenose dolphins.
Since 1996, it has been prohibited to swim with whales and dolphins off the Canary Islands. So if you want to take underwater footage, you either need a special permit (for a scientific study for example) or take the footage whilst remaining in the boat. I have a small action camera mounted to a tripod which I put in the water if the conditions are good and the whales or dolphins voluntarily come close to the boat. I can’t see what I’m filming so it is always a surprise to see what I have been lucky enough to capture! In this case, I was very lucky because I caught the fin whale on camera and the white right side of the head can be seen very well.
Here, off La Gomera, you can often see short-finned pilot whales together with bottlenose dolphins but this combination, along with the fin whale, was particularly special.
If you are planning to go on a whale watching trip during your holidays, please make sure you choose a responsible operator. You can find more information in our Guide to Responsible Whale Watching.