If you want to see dolphins and whales in the wild, there is no better place than the Canary Islands, a third of all species of cetacean either live in, or pass through Canarian waters. Some 23 different species have been spotted in recent years, with the majority of them passing between La Gomera and Tenerife.
Everybody loves to see themÂ playing in the waves and wants to get closer for a better view but it is important they they are given plenty of space and for that reason the Canarian environmental agency (Medio Ambiente) has a set of guidelines that whale and dolphin watching boats must follow, look out for the Blue Boat symbol that means they have agreed to the scheme.
The guidelines include not chasing the creatures or crossing their path, and allowing them at least 60 metres of space between them and the boat observing them. It is also forbidden to swim with dolphins and whales in the wild, they may seem cute and playful, but they are also quite timid and not used to close contact with humans.
There are several groups operating in the Canary islands, studying and keeping track of cetaceans, if you go out on a watching boat, you may meet some of the student volunteers from whale nation, who will give you some background information on the creatures and the threats they face.
There is still much debate over the affect of sonar devices on whales and dolphins, in recent years several have been found washed ashore after military manouveres in the seas off the Canary Islands, and there is a strong belief that sonar systems could have caused the deaths. Polution is another ever present danger, even cigarette ends dropped on the beach can be washed out to sea and swallowed by the creatures, the filters expand in the water and prevent whales and dolphins from being able to digest enough food.
Education is the key to survival for these endangered species, and in the Canaries we are lucky to be able to observe them free and wild, hopefully with the right protection, there is a chance they may still be there for many decades to come.