12
Jun
17

Compensation

Madeira is without doubt a beautiful island. Eye popping panoramic views from ear popping montane roads; a warm climate, lush exotic fauna and idyllic azure seas. However, it wasn’t the lure of the islands beauty that took me there last week. It was the promise of a Bryde’s Whale.

This species of cetacean is known to summer around the island each year. I have been on a mission to see and photograph Bryde’s Whales (pronounced Broodas) for some years. This trip was a long time coming.

Upon arrival a word with several boat operators around the island revealed not a single Bryde’s had been seen this season. Not one. I was hoping with seven trips to sea booked that situation would change. However I was to be disappointed. They are late this year and at the time of writing have still not appeared.

However nature has a habit of compensating. It was on one of the seven trip we were to definitely pull something totally unexpected out of the bag.

The spotter situated on the hillside above radioed in to say he had seen a couple of animals that he thought were beaked whales. We were onto them. The skipper, Danial, brought the rib around and plotted a course. We were in the right area within minutes. Now all we had to do was find them. It was easier than I thought.

Around a quarter of all the world’s ninety or so cetaceans are beaked whales. They are deep diving enigmatic species more at home in the cold dark depths of the ocean than they are at the surface. Minutes viewable are usually followed by up to an hour or more kilometres deep. They are rarely observed for any length of time. Some species are almost completely unknown.

As we scanned the sea two fins, a scarred light grey back and a flat forehead meant I had seen my first Blainville’s Beaked Whales. I was overjoyed. These are creatures I have only ever read about and seen in books.

Compensation indeed.

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2 Responses to “Compensation”


  1. June 12, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    There is a resident population of Bryde’s whales off Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. We saw 3 of them circling our boat just a short hop out from shore. It was August last year.


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