The Madeira Archipelago has always been visited by different species of Madeira whales dolphins, and they presently support a fast-growing whale-watching industry that attracts a new generation of eco-friendly whalers. The Madeiran waters are very rich in cetaceans, with at least 22 species recorded.
There are approximately 75 species of cetaceans worldwide. Within 5 kilometers of the shore, the ocean floor reaches a depth of more than 3,000 meters. On most days these ocean going creatures are swimming by right on your door step! In some years, oceanic species of dolphins, along with very rare Beaked Whales and Orcas, are also seen in the waters of Madeira. The periodic migration of various species of cetaceans frequent the waters of Madeira in search of food, as an area of reproduction and, for at least one species, as its habitat.
The most common species of these massive dwellers of the sea that can be spotted on the Madeira coast are:
- This specie can be identified by its yellowish spot on the sides, very common in these waters, specially in Spring and Winter, where it develops a set of activities as the feeding, the socialization and reproduction.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
- These dolphins can be identified by their spotting (white in the back and grey in the womb) of which the first spot develops after the first year . It is an active and very sociable specie with the boats, and we can normally see them in big groups.
- These grey colored dolphins with their distinct beak and rounded forehead measure is the biggest specie of dolphins that you can find on the island, measuring around 2 to 4 meters in length. We find them normally in smaller groups, and is possible to watch them all year around, as there are indications of a resident family in the island.
Turtles in Madeira
- Five species have been recorded in Madeiran waters, of which the Loggerhead is the commonest, while Green and Leatherback are scarce but occur regularly.
- Seen regularly in these waters, being possible to see just an individual or groups up to 30 individuals. Its blow has the particularity of being oblique (in contrast of the majority of the other species) about 45˚ forward and slightly to the left, and it has a rounded-shape head.
- This black or dark grey whale reaches a body length of 3.5 to 6m. It has a very distinguished round, bulbous forehead. Despite not being very sociable, usually allow boats to approach them closely.
- There are several species of Beaked Whales to be observed in Madeiran waters. Their size varies from 5 to 10m. Their colors can vary from each other. These are very shy animals and measure in between 5 and 10 m long.
- During the last few years, Fin Whales have been sighted migrating along the Madeiran coast. The Fin Whale is a baleen whale and after the Blue Whale, is the second biggest Whale with sizes up to 26m. They are very fast swimmers.
- Specie that is seen mostly on Summer, usually as one individual alone or in pairs, when there is a creat. It can be distinguished because it has three longitudinal ridges on its head, instead as three, as in other species.
Whale & Dolphin Documentary
Mediterranean Monk Seal
- One spectacular sea mammal can be seen along the Madeiran coast, the Mediterranean Monk Seal. Once, these seals were so numerous the town of Câmara de Lobos was named after them: the name translates as “bed of wolves”. In Madeira the species is commonly named “Lobo marinho” (sea wolf) due to its barking and howling voice. The Desertas Islands became the last part of the Madeiran archipelago with suitable conditions for Monk Seal survival.