A rare orca sighting was enjoyed by several delighted dolphin watchers on Sunday (July 24) off the coast of Sagres in the Western Algarve.
Incredible photos of the encounter were sent into the Resident by boat trip company Cape Cruiser.
“We sighted a group of four during one of our morning trips. They were reasonably close to the coast, near some oyster aquaculture tanks,” explained one of the company’s marine biologists, Débora Marujo.
The killer whales, which actually belong to the dolphin family despite their name, spent a good part of the day travelling along the western part of the Algarve coast, which Marujo says is “part of their usual migration route”. They are known to travel along the Mediterranean in search of their main source of food – tuna.
She added that seeing the killer whales is not very common, but is “much more likely during the summer”. Since the company opened in 2013, it has registered only eight killer whale sightings, all between June and September.
On its Facebook page, Cape Cruiser wrote that “the photos cannot show a third of the emotion that we felt seeing them live”.
Marujo said that while the killer whales are not as sociable with humans as the common bottlenose dolphin, “one of the orcas’ offspring was more playful than the adults and came closer to the boat several times”.
Zoomarine’s marine biologist Élio Vicente confirmed that the orcas travel along our waters frequently, but that they are not as commonly seen as other species of dolphins.
He added that despite the name, the killer whale is not “particularly dangerous” to humans.
“They are at the top of the food chain in the sea. When they stalk a prey, they are known to rarely, if ever, miss a strike,” he explained. However, they don’t see humans as “food”.
They can weigh up to six tons and grow to nearly 10 metres.