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9 must-see dolphins to spot in Tenerife

The Canary Islands, situated off the northwest coast of Africa, are renowned for their breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and diverse marine life. Among the captivating marine creatures that grace the waters surrounding the islands, dolphins hold a special place. Embark on a journey into the enchanting realm of these remarkable marine mammals as we unravel the various dolphin species that call the Canaries their home.

If you've ever wondered which dolphins you can encounter in the waters of Tenerife and when and where to find them, you're in for a treat. In this blog, we'll take you on a journey through the diverse dolphin species that call Tenerife home, along with the best locations and to catch a glimpse of their playful antics.

1. Grey Dolphin (Grampus griseus)

Grey Dolphin

The Grey Dolphin, also known as the Risso's dolphin, can be observed with regularity along the leeward coasts of the Canary Islands. They are often spotted near areas such as La Isleta-Bañaderos in Gran Canaria, Roques de Anaga and Garachico in Tenerife, and Roques de Salmor in El Hierro. These dolphins have a distinctive appearance with a grey body and scars caused by encounters with other dolphins or squid. Males reach an average size of about 3.80 meters, while females measure around 3.60 meters. Their diet primarily consists of octopus and squid, and they can be found in tropical to temperate waters. The social structure of Grey Dolphins is stratified by age and sex.

2. Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose Dolphin.

The waters of southwest Tenerife are home to a resident population of approximately 12 Bottlenose Dolphins. The Canary Islands serve as an important breeding and rearing area for this species. Studies suggest that these dolphins regularly move between the islands. Bottlenose Dolphins are well-known for their intelligence and playful behavior. Males typically measure between 2.45 and 3.8 meters, while females range from 2.4 to 3.7 meters. Their diet is versatile and opportunistic, and they can be found in temperate to warm waters worldwide. These dolphins form fusion-fission groups, exhibiting a flexible social structure.

3. Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)

Common Dolphin

The Common Dolphin is a frequent visitor to the Canary Islands, arriving in late November and staying until May or June. They travel in large groups and have a wide distribution throughout the archipelago. These dolphins have a sleek and streamlined body, making them excellent swimmers. The average size of a Common Dolphin is between 2.20 and 2.7 meters. They primarily feed on small fish and calamari. Like many other dolphin species, Common Dolphins inhabit temperate to warm waters globally and form large social groups, with an average of around 30 individuals.

4. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

From autumn to summer, the Atlantic Spotted Dolphin can be frequently seen in the waters surrounding the Canary Islands. They are known for their curiosity and often approach boats. However, examinations of stranded specimens have revealed high concentrations of heavy metals in their internal tissues. These dolphins have a size range of 2.26 to 2.29 meters and feed on small fish and squid. They inhabit warm Atlantic waters and exhibit a very gregarious nature, forming numerous groups. Near the coast, you can find them in groups of about 5 to 15 individuals.

5. Striped Dolphin Delphin Listado (Stenella coeruleoalba)

The Striped Dolphin is an occasional visitor to the Canary Islands and is more abundant in the eastern islands. They are relatively shy and elusive when it comes to interacting with boats. The archipelago appears to serve as a breeding area for this species. Striped Dolphins have a size range of 2.40 to 2.60 meters and primarily feed on small fish and squid. Like other dolphin species, they have a wide distribution in temperate to warm waters and form very gregarious and large groups.

6. Rough-Toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis)

Venturing close to the coast, the Rough-Toothed Dolphin is a potential resident of the Canary Islands, making occasional appearances throughout the year. During the summer months, these dolphins are frequently spotted, often accompanied by their adorable offspring. With a size ranging from 2.55 to 2.65 meters, they capture our attention with their grace and beauty. Their diet consists of a delectable combination of fish and squid, and they can be found in warm-temperate waters around the globe. When it comes to socializing, they prefer the company of small groups, typically ranging from 10 to 20 individuals.

7. Fraser's Dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei)

Encountering a Fraser's Dolphin in the Canary Islands is an extremely rare occurrence, with only sporadic sightings and a single recorded stranding on the island of Gran Canaria. This lone individual was discovered alive in a fishing port, but unfortunately, its fate was short-lived. Measuring approximately 2.65 meters, Fraser's Dolphins exhibit a preference for mesopelagic fish, shrimp, and squid as their main sources of nourishment. Their distribution spans temperate to warm waters worldwide, making them true wanderers of the seas. In terms of social structure, Fraser's Dolphins are known for forming large groups, fostering a sense of camaraderie among their fellow pod members.

8. Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris)

Spinner Dolphin

The Spinner Dolphin, a truly captivating species, has graced the Canary Islands with its presence on rare occasions. These magnificent dolphins have been sighted at least twice within the archipelago, leaving a lasting impression on lucky observers. One remarkable incident took place in the Playa del Inglés on Gran Canaria, where a stranded individual was successfully returned to the sea. Ranging in size from 2.10 to 2.35 meters, Spinner Dolphins share similar dietary preferences with their marine counterparts, indulging in mesopelagic fish, shrimp, and calamari. They can be found in temperate to warm waters globally and display a gregarious nature, forming groups of variable sizes.

9. Atlantic Hump-Backed Dolphin (Sousa teuszii)

A magical encounter awaits those fortunate enough to spot an Atlantic Hump-Backed Dolphin in the Canary Islands. One such sighting occurred just a few meters from the stunning Playa de Jinamar on Gran Canaria, where this enigmatic dolphin remained for several hours before disappearing into the depths. Identified by a knowledgeable technician from the Viceconcejería de Medio Ambiente of the Government of the Canary Islands, this species exhibits distinct sexual dimorphism. Males can reach a size of 2.79 meters, while females measure around 2.49 meters. Their diet primarily consists of small fish, squid, and octopus, and they inhabit the coastal waters of the tropical Atlantic. Atlantic Hump-Backed Dolphins prefer smaller group sizes, forming close-knit communities comprising 3 to 8 individuals.

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