There are many ways of sampling ‘A life on the ocean-wave’, from dinghy’s to cruise-ships, speedboats to hovercraft’s -and pedalo’s to ferries, but none can be more relaxing -or more enjoyable, than spending an afternoon on one of the fabulous ‘Freebird’ Catamarans. ‘Freebird Sailing’, which was founded in 1994, has the largest catamaran fleet in the Canary Islands, boasting ‘5’ superb vessels, which spend their days taking hundreds of holiday-makers around Tenerife’s southern coast. There are a variance of cruises on offer, with sailing times ranging from three to four-and-a-half hours, which include stopping-off at various beaches, or simply pulling-over in the middle of nowhere, where passengers are cordially invited to dive off the catamaran and enjoy a cool dip in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the highlight of the day is always the time spent getting up-close-and-personal with the wonderful whales and dolphins that frequent the waters off the southern coast of Tenerife. Over one third of all whale and dolphin species reside in, or pass through the Canarian waters, and visitors are virtually guaranteed to see either pilot whales or bottle-nosed dolphins on whatever boat trip (of which there are many) they so choose.
During the day -and especially in the morning, pilot whales can be seen logging at the surface of the water, having spent the night-time hunting for food in deeper -and somewhat cooler waters. Every pilot whale has its own unique dorsal fin, representative of a human finger-print, as no two dorsal fins will ever be identical. Apparently there are around 1,000 short-finned pilot whales frequenting Tenerife’s coastal waters, 800 of which have been named and catalogued by the Atlantic Whale Foundation, although it is estimated that only around half of these are present throughout the year, the other half undergoing small scale migrations, or are transient. Bottle-nosed dolphins live in large family groups called pods, and within the pod there are smaller families with very close bonds, although these groups do change from year to year. Apart from the bottle-nosed dolphins, one might even be lucky-enough to spot Risso’s dolphins, which can normally be found in temperate and tropical waters around the world, such as the Persian Gulf, The Mediterranean, or the Red sea, but they can also be found in cooler waters, ranging from the Gulf of Alaska up north, all the way down to the Tierra del Fuego, off the coast of South America.
However, Risso’s Dolphins are normally found in deeper waters, rather than shallower waters close to land. If one is extremely lucky then one could even spot an adult sperm whale, many of which migrate to feed in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the summertime. Sperm whales have no dorsal fin, but two-thirds of the way down their back is a marked dorsal hump, followed by a series of knuckles. Sperm whales feed on fish, squid and octopuses, of which they normally consume around ‘one ton’ a day! My most memorable whale and dolphin trip was on the ‘Fun-Cat’ catamaran -a day that I will remember for the rest of my life, for so many reasons -primarily because my late-departed mother, ‘Kitty’, was there to enjoy the day with me and my three children. The day prior to our sailing I had bought the children their own ‘machine-gun’ sized water-pistols, which they had insisted on bringing with them to the beach in the morning -and so they still had them in their possession when we boarded the Fun-Cat. It was a baking-hot day and the catamaran was about three-quarters full as we set-sail in search of the whales and dolphins, our cameras primed at the ready for a few close-up snaps of these wonderful creatures.
At the tail-end of the catamaran were two massive nets, strung-out and harnessed to the sides of the boat, like a tightrope walkers safety-net, which the children immediately commandeered as their sun-beds for the trip, the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean gently splashing their bodies with each wave we traversed. I am happy to say that it wasn’t long before our oceanic friends appeared on the scene, welcoming their visitors by swimming in hypnotic circles around our boat -much to the delight of the madding crowd. After about forty-five minutes we took our leave of the whales and dolphins, and within half-an-hour our catamaran had docked a few hundred metres off-shore, where my children and I enjoyed frolicking-around in the Atlantic Ocean, along with several other passengers -which, incidentally, didn’t include nanny-Kit, as she was too-busy tucking into her complimentary lunch! Having spent around three hours at sea, it was now time to return back to the dock; it had been a wonderful adventure for all of us.
However, little did any of us know then that the ‘Fun-Cat’ was about to live up to its name -in more ways than one! Carl and Hayley were just about to return to their ‘safety-net’, when suddenly Liam let-fly with an avalanche of water from his water-pistol, which simply drowned the pair of them! Carl was not having any of this, of course, and so out came his Gatling-gun of H20, which he promptly dispersed all over his brother, in revenge for the attack. Unfortunately, Carl also managed to soak one of the crew-members in the process, who immediately retaliated by throwing a cup of water over my son -who, in-turn obliterated him with a second volley of water for his cheek! Within minutes all hell had broken loose, as Hayley joined-in the assault on the poor guy, while the rest of the crew-members donned their bodies with plastic over-macs, before joining-in the battle with the ‘Donovan-Clan’, the majority of them now throwing cups and jugs of water at the kids by the gallon! By now my mother and I, along with the rest of the passengers (most of whom were shouting for my kids to win the battle) had moved to the ‘drier’ end of the boat, while the war raged-on for the next 10 minutes, or so -until the crew finally capitulated, going down on their knees and begging for mercy -much to the children’s delight. This certainly had been a day to remember -and one which my beloved mother would never forget -God bless her.