For some reason, we often associate with whale watching with far flung destinations or long ocean voyages. But it’s perfectly possible, indeed highly likely, to be able to go whale watching in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, not far from the shore.
Here we talk about whale watching in Tenerife: what it’s like and how you can do it too.
Pedro Martina’s sun-worn face lights up as he grabs my shoulder and points into the distance.
“Three of them are under the water now,” he says as I scour the shades of blue. “One baby and two adultos… and further behind them I can see two more.”
It’s certainly not the first time Pedro has hunted whales, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him. Despite a seafaring tradition of more than three generations plus hauling tourists along the waves every day, he still wears that expression of childlike wonder.
He’s right, of course, and I stare, mesmerized as sleek-skinned pilot whales rise out of the water. At first glance, they look like giant dolphins, with their glistening dorsal fins, curved leaps and semi-wicked glints in their eyes. Water falls off them like diamonds, yet their chunky body shape suggests that someone got their proportions wrong.
It’s only when we find a school of dolphins half an hour later that the difference becomes clear.
Dolphins are sprightlier, bouncier, faster. They are also much, much smaller.
Pilot Whales, I learn, are 6 metres long at birth and can grow to weigh 3 tons. In a happy change from many whale-related stories, they are not critically endangered, nor even under threat.
The same cannot be said for the fishing business that Pedro grew up with in Puerto de Santiago.
His grandfather practiced line-caught tuna fishing, a dolphin-friendly but backbreaking method of heaving the hulk of a tuna fish onto a small boat by means of a single line. Days started at four in the morning and drove on until eight at night for all but two months of the year. Now that tradition has gone.
“Contamination,” says Pedro, when I ask. “And trawler nets.”
We both gaze across the perfect sky and cliffs that frame the Atlantic Ocean. Would Pedro have preferred to be a fisherman?
He pauses for a moment. “Fishing is hard work, very hard work. It is also very good for the body, good for the form.” He pats his stomach and bellows with laughter.
Seagulls swoop from overhead to snatch food from his crewmate’s outstretched hands.
“We have to change,” Pedro tells me. “Everything has to change. It is typical, it is life.”
He hands me a whale-watching certificate, smiles and then saunters down to encourage the seagulls.
Pedro is the captain of Nashira Uno. The Maritima Acantilados group organizes Whale & Dolphin Cruises from Los Gigantes in Tenerife.
Tel: +34 922 86 19 18
Alternative luxury whale watching charters (untested) – http://www.tenerifesailingcharters.com/
Tenerife offers year round chances to spot whales and dolphins.
This is a relaxed, easy-going affair. Bring water, a hat and sunscreen plus any camera equipment you like.
Tenerife has fascinating archaeological pyramids, a volcano to climb and incredible beaches to lounge on. Most unusually, it is blessed with beaches where the sand is black. These are usually pretty quiet as the big resorts have built up around the white sand places.
Despite its bad reputation for mass tourism, I found Tenerife to be a place of transcendent beauty and surprise. No, seriously! You just need to know the right place to stay…
The chic-est spot is probably the small village of Garachico on the northern coast of the island. I’d recommend the boutique Hotel San Roque, an elegant, historic place bursting with colour, privacy and calm.
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Disclosure – some of the links on this website may earn me some money at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend places that I would, well, recommend. Otherwise it starts getting a bit weird…
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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