Dolphin's intelligence has been well documented and that must be one of the reasons why they choose to live in Gran Canaria.
Dolphins have no problems in finding sufficient food and as such they are lucky enough to dedicate the majority of their time to leaping and splashing about around the south of the island. The calm seas there are oxygenated with fresh currents from the north giving perfect conditions for a playboy lifestyle.
The different family groups start moving as soon as the first rays of sun hit the beaches. Their dorsal fins are known locally as “toninas” and their appearance guarantees that the fun is about to begin. The sighting of their fins becomes the main attraction for the day. For this reason, in recent years a number of local companies have been providing the opportunity to get close to the dolphin families. They use authorised boats that are licensed to bring visitors close to their habitats, whilst guaranteeing that the legal requirements are maintained and due care is taken. Visitors are supervised and accompanied by experts and biologists who provide extra information on the whales and dolphins.
Silvana Neves is a marine biologist from SECAC (whale-watch society for the Canaries archipelago) and can be found recording scientific data from the bridge of one of the boats that can be chartered in the tourist areas of Gran Canaria; she says, “This is a paradise for whales and dolphins. Of the 87 species in existence around the world, 29 can be found here…”. The Natura 2000 Network sees it as “the most ecologically valuable location in Europe”. In addition to bottlenose dolphins, visitors can also see common, striped and spotted dolphins.
The emotive safaris last around two hours and there are two trips per day to catch a glimpse of animals that, in the case of bottlenose dolphins, can weigh over half a ton. This doesn’t stop them leaping over the prow of the boats spraying droplets in the air, on their own or in groups, landing with a splash of foam in front of their audience, often to a round of applause.
Long before any of this happens, the boat trip is full of expectation and nervous excitement of what might or might not lie ahead. The skipper of the boat and the spotters are equipped with powerful binoculars. They seek out the first signs of the pods at sea which may seem like nothing at first; maybe a seagull watching for a scrap of fish from the mammals, a sudden splash on the surface or a direct radio call from local fishermen giving details of exact location and numbers of mammals that are currently showing off.
En route to the encounter, the excitement builds and without warning the competition starts to be the first to spot the animals.
From a distance you see a fleeting shadow, now two and finally a whole pack of dorsal fins surging forwards and bursting up so that they are no longer swimming, they are flying, just a few metres alongside the boat with such an amazing agility that even the dolphins seem to be laughing.
There you can see baby dolphins prancing and leaping under the watchful eye of their mothers, the muscular males resplendent in silver and grey rising in time with each other as whole groups offer synchronised choreographies; creating the purest of shows offered by mother Nature provoking the same reaction from that public that one might expect following a ‘close encounter’ with an extraterrestrial. It isn’t a simple metaphor, it’s an encounter with one of the most amazing marvels to be found anywhere on the planet, right here in Gran Canaria.
You can also find out more from any of the Island’s Tourist Offices. Don’t forget to find out what the sea is hiding in Gran Canaria.