Water Sports - Whale & Dolphin Watching

Whale & Dolphin watching
Whale & Dolphin watching

Tours: Gibraltar Dolphin Watching | Tarifa Whale Watching

Whale & Dolphin watching

The waters off the coast of Andalucia are home to a large population of whales and dolphins. They are known formally as cetaceans and can be divided into two main orders: mysticeti and odontoceti, and you can see them both by joining one of the many boat expeditions offered by companies operating from various points along the Costa de la Luz, and the Costa del Sol, especially from ports of Tarifa and Gibraltar.

MYSTICETI CETACEANS

The mysticeti order of cetaceans are known as Baleen whales and are the largest of members of this species. These are creatures that may grow to 120ft long and weigh up to 190 tons – and this is particularly impressive when you consider that a Boeing B-747 airliner weighs 150 tons.  

ODONTOCETI CETACEANS

The odontoceti are the group of cetaceans that include all the toothed whales, grampus, porpoise and dolphins. Most dolphins, such as the common dolphin, may be found virtually anywhere and are especially prevalent here in the Mediterranean. Other types of dolphins commonly sighted off our coasts are the bottlenose dolphin and the striped dolphin.

These are the ones that have been known to man for thousands of years. The Straits of Gibraltar are well-known for the biannual migration of bird life. What is generally not so well known is that there is also a continual passage of cetaceans between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

 

History

It is only in comparatively recent geological times that all this marine movement has become possible. As the theory goes, twelve million years ago the African continent slowly bumped into Spain and a low mountain ridge was formed between Tangier and Tarifa. The Mediterranean became a vast lake, eventually drying up, leaving vast deposits of salt behind. Then, again according to the geological theory, six million years later, Africa started to retreat from Europe and a breach was created in the mountain dam previously formed.

 

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From there it is believed that the largest waterfall the world has ever known was created and the Atlantic thundered over a 3,000 ft drop, yet again filling the Mediterranean basin, thus allowing the reintroduction of marine life into this area.

 

 

Boat Trips

Straights of Gibraltar are famous for its dolphins, which can be easily seen on boat trips operating out of Gibraltar and Tarifa. This stretch of water is only 13 miles wide at their narrowest point, the concentration of cetaceans is very high, especially towards the centre. You can see these animals in this area of water throughout the year, in their natural habitat. Tour operators offer fun, informative trips for all ages and at reasonable prices, with live commentary to explain the behaviour of these popular mammals. It is about three miles offshore that you find the larger creatures, such as the sperm whale. For some reason most sightings show that they are heading in a westerly direction. The prevailing surface current is easterly and these animals may be just swimming against the current flow and not in fact travelling out of the Straits at that particular time.

 

 

Headlands

From prominent headlands, with patience and binoculars, it is possible to see the smaller cetaceans closer inshore. In the various bays formed along the Andalucian coast, common and striped dolphins are always present and several companies run whale and dolphin spotting boat trips throughout the year.

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