Around this time of the year, a broad variety of species can be found and spotted in the coasts of southern Europe, and more specifically at the Strait of Gibraltar. In this series we dive into some of the species that can be spotted off the coast of Tarifa. Sunburnt tourists and massive unicorn or donut shaped floaties are among the most common. Or in the case of Tarifa, the windsurfers and kitesurfers. But what about those far more interesting species? The animals that can be found in the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
During the Summer months of July, August and September, navigating the Strait of Gibraltar can be a feast for cetacean lovers and overall a very unique experience. Let´s see what friends we can be find!
- The usual suspects: Not only the easiest to be observed due partly to their sociability but some of the most beloved and celebrated creatures of the Ocean: dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins, stripped dolphins and common dolphins. All three of them are resident on the Strait and can be found all year round. Our most beloved cetaceans, if we ever had to choose one, these species of dolphin can be found in the Mediterranean waters, while sailing in southern Europe and to be precise off of the coasts of Tarifa. The bottlenose dolphins (the most known ones due to its acrobacies), the gorgeous stripped dolphins and common dolphins swim across the waters of the strait mainly because of the warm waters and the abundance of food.
Image: Bottlenose dolphin
- The killer look: Move Chanel! No one wears it best than our dear orcas. The biggest member of the dolphin family that can be spotted in the strait of Gibraltar and a few miles off of the Andalousian coast and by far the most elegant. The orcas mainly feed on bluefin tuna and this fish migrates through the lively strait during Spring and Summer. Attracting the orcas, which can be found on the area of Tarifa specially during the months of July and August. There are many boat trips leaving the harbour to encounter this beautiful animals, as long as the wind known as Levante allows to sail.
Image: Killer whale in the Strait of Gibraltar
- The cool popular kid, the pilot whale: Regardless of its name (much like its relative, the so called killer whale) pilot whales are indeed from the dolphin family, the second largest after their cousins the orca. The long finned pilot whale with its charactheristic fin can be observed in the strait of Gibraltar, swimming even with other species such as the bottlenose dolphin due to its very social nature. They can be found all year round and they feed mainly on squid, although they also eat fish.
Image: Pilot whale
- The big guy, the fin whale: It can happen and it has happened that we encounter a fin whale passing the Strait of Gibraltar. They can reach a speed of 37km/h and because of that they are able to pass the strait in a rather short amount of time on its way to the Mediterranean (as short as 1h, pretty impressive). They feed on plancton mainly and they are the second largest animal after the blue whale.
Image: Fin whale in the Strait of Gibraltar
- The bad boy, the sperm whale: With its 18meters long and its 50 tons of weight is one of the best divers, being able to stay under water for more than an hour. Its favourite dish is the giant squid. The giant squid will bring the sperm whale down in deep waters, being able to dive 1200m to hunt its prey. There are plenty of reports of sperm whales with scars from fighting giant squids. Because they dive in deep, sperm whales can be found in the middle of the Strait where the waters are deeper. Here is a video by our friends at Turmares, where you can see footage of sperm whale in the strait.
Tarifa is a hubspot for cetacean observation in Europe. It is one of the best places in Europe for whale and dolphin watchin in the wilderness. We usually take our expeditions with our WILDSEA Europe Member, Turmares.
“Turmares Tarifa is a champion for the wild seas! It will not only show you a great time: it will challenge you to improve your knowledge of the marine environment and it will grant you the opportunity of engaging in citizen science activities, in support of marine wildlife”.