Dolphin and Whale Spotting in Gibraltar

Mar 21st, 2013 | By | Category: Sightseeing

Among all of the attractions of Gibraltar, which offers you something new every three feet, or so it seems, one that remains popular with those who visit Gibraltar is marine life. Whale Watching, or Dolphin spotting has become a very popular pastime in Gibraltar and continues to grow in popularity.Dolphin and Whale Spotting in GibraltarThe Strait of Gibraltar at its narrowest point, decreases to something over ten miles wide, and toward the center of that strait lies the area where the dolphins and whales will be most prolific.

After about three miles out, it is then that you will encounter the larger species, the huge mammals, such as the Sperm Whales, and most visitors to Gibraltar, or at least those whale watchers of Gibraltar, say that curiously enough, most of the time when they are sighted, they seem to be headed west. What makes this odd is that the current on the surface has a prevailing easterly flow.

More than the whales, the dolphins of the region are prolific and can be seen nearly any day, visiting the Bay of Gibraltar.There are mainly three species of Dolphin who live here, primarily the Common Dolphin,  Bottlenose Dolphin and the Striped Dolphin. While we don’t have a vast array of facts about the species that visit these waters surrounding Gibraltar, those facts that we do have serve to fascinate us even more with the species of animals who live their entire lives out within the water.

Dolphins as a general rule are able to dive to depths of about 300 yards (280m) and that they can stay under the water for as long as 8 minutes without surfacing to take a breath. Their swimming speeds can exceed thirty five miles per hour (depending of course on the type of animal of course) and they can live as long as 25 years, when they live in the wild, though this can be shortened substantially if they spend their lives as captives.

Dolphins are very sociable animals, spending almost all of their time in the company of others of their species. The family groups of dolphins can range from two or three, to several hundred, living and working together. Dolphins seem to organize and cooperate in what they do. They will work together to gather food, help each other to sleep, to give birth to new infants or to assist when another dolphin is ill or injured.

It is more than common for us to see schools of common dolphins in the Bay of Gibraltar, and mothers seem particularly fond of bringing in the nursery kids to play here, who will stay quite close to the mums as they rise to the surface to take a breath.

The dolphins of the Gibraltar Bay have been seen to organise as they hunt. The dolphin watchers who come to view dolphins and whales in Gibraltar have seen the dolphins corral fish, taking it in turns as they swim into the group to capture the fish. Another favorite fish of the dolphin groups are flying fish, which is quite interesting to watch as they hunt them.

Interested in taking a tour to see the dolphins and whales up close? Click here to learn more…

The dolphins find their food in much the same way as a bat would do, using sonar. They will offer high pitched clicks or squeaks and will wait for the echo to come back to them, using the direction and the time that it takes for the return to tell them the distance and the direction of the food source. They not only can tell the distance and the direction but because they have the capacity to vary both the power and the pitch of the sound wave, they gain information about the size of the object before they attempt to pursue it.Dolphin and Whale Spotting in Gibraltar

Dolphins have a great deal more intellect than most animals and to watch them will be a source of amazement and amusement for those who choose to watch the dolphins and whales of Gibraltar. They will play, as humans do, and seem to be having competitions of sorts as they race around and dive below and jump above the water. They are aware of their obligation to family and to other animals, as are the whales as well.

The Bay as well as the Strait of Gibraltar appear to be a breeding area for several species of dolphins. The best chance that you will have to see them will be from November to January. Nearly every day, all year round you will find a guided tour leaving from different marinas and in most cases you will get a good view from one of these trips.

Gibraltar is also visited by migratory whales that will include names you may recognize. The Strait does see the Sperm Whales, Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Long Fin Pilot whales, and sometimes the Minky Whales. If you are fortunate enough, on one of the whale watching expeditions, you will likely view one of these as well.

Among the Whales and Dolphins you might see on any given day in the Strait of Gibraltar, you can look forward to viewing:

The Longfin Pilot Whale. The Population of the pilot whale in the Strait is said to number bout 250 animals that live in pods, which number between fifteen and twenty. The pilot whale lives in the strait all through the year, and it seems that the ships do not disturb them, as their population doesn’t seem to be decreasing in any way. The Pilot whales are quite friendly affable guys who will approach curiously and check you out.

The Killer Whales, or Orca, visit the Strait primarily when its time for the tuna to migrate, which takes place in July and August of each year. Spanish fishermen, as well as Moroccan will fish for yellow fin tuna and using fishing lines, each one equipped with several hooks, they will fish in about 100 metres deep water. The killer whales who are quite intelligent will very often simply go up to the hooks and pluck the fish from them, leaving the head, as they’ve apparently learned about the hooks.

Dolphin and Whale Spotting in Gibraltar

The hooks, with just a tuna head attached are all that the tuna fishermen recovers for his trouble. There were, in 2006, only about twelve Killer Whales in the Strait of Gibraltar, so they are harder to find and to see than some of the others.

The Common Dolphin. The common dolphin species, including bottle nosed and striped dolphins are in the Strait of Gibraltar all year round. They enter the Bay of Gibraltar, and sometimes gather in seeming herds of more than a hundred, sometimes even a thousand.

Fortunate folks may also see the larger whales, which, although they are less common, are also seen within these waters. Those whales include the Sperm Whale and the Fin Whales, which are remarkably huge in size. One Sperm Whale, surprisingly, was seen within the Bay of Gibraltar although this is not common.


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