23 Jun

Whale watching for motivated students

La Gomera, June 2016.

Those students who exceeded expectations by improved performances in the past semester were invited to a very special whale watching trip on June 16, at 9 a.m. The kids from the Valle Gran Rey at the age of 14 to 15 years and their accompanying teacher had the opportunity to discover the large number of cetaceans off the coast of their hometown. Biologist Volker Boehlke started by introducing the most common species and explaining their habitat.


Waves and whales

Since it took a while finding the cetaceans, the skipper of the OCEANO, Carmen, gave a brief introduction on how to ride a boat. After some 90 minutes we met a group of Pilot Whales, 3.5 miles off the coast. However, in the beginning of this first encounter there were a couple of short and high waves. Although most of the students enjoyed the waves, the whale watching was impeded by the rocking sea. After a while the animals moved into more calm waters, so we were finally able watching them peacefully.


Learning and practicing on board

It was easy to distinguish the different fins of the different individuals. There were even newborns among the 25 animals, who were always hiding closely below the fluke of their mother. A couple of dispersed Bottlenose Dolphins were mixing with the Pilot Whales, but kept their distance. It did not take long until the students were able to distinguish those more mobile dolphins with their pointed fins from their bigger relatives.


A special reward

Shortly after leaving the Pilot Whales there were more groups of Bottlenose Dolphins emerging. Over and over again they were riding the bow for a short period of time, and there were loud shouts over the water, whenever they re-entered the waters after one of their spectacular high leaps. A large number of shearwater birds in close proximity, as well as repeated short leaps of several animals were leading us to more groups, which were obviously hunting fish. In the end, we definitely observed more than 30 animals. This great experience was made perfect by the loud grunting under-water calls, which were recorded by a hydrophone and made audible on board via loudspeakers. After four hours we returned to the harbor. The smiles on the students faces were a reflection of the great reward they had experienced!