The Most Incredible Whale Species in Tenerife

09 Nov 2018

In addition to the pilot whales and sperm whales which call the waters around the Canaries their permanent home, there are a further 15 different species which travel through the waters at different times of the year on their way to another part of the world. The chances of you spotting these incredible creatures are relatively slim. But when you do, the sight is simply amazing.

Aside from its volcanic sandy beaches, top end luxury resorts and year-round blissful weather, there’s another great characteristic that attracts thousands of people to Tenerife each year — its wildlife! Out of all the whales and dolphins in the world, 1/3 of the species live or pass through the waters of the Canaries. This huge population of marine life means you’re almost guaranteed to see at least a few dolphins or whales in Tenerife when you head out on a boat trip.

The tail end of a whale diving into the water

Tenerife is home to some incredible marine life

In addition to the pilot whales and sperm whales which call the waters around the Canaries their permanent home, there are a further 15 different species which travel through the waters at different times of the year on their way to another part of the world. The chances of you spotting these incredible creatures are relatively slim. But when you do, the sight is simply amazing.

If you want the once-in-a-lifetime experience of spotting some of the most incredible whales in Tenerife the next time you’re on one of our tours, here’s the ones you should be looking for and a little bit of interesting info about each of them.

3 amazing species of whales in Tenerife

Two killer whales playing in the sea

Orcas pass through the waters around Tenerife during summer

Orcas

Although they’re technically classed as toothed whales, orcas are the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. Also known as killer whales, this beautiful species is named after Orcus, the Latin god of the underworld, because they’re said to look demonic. Their ‘killer whale’ nickname comes from the occasional aggressive behaviour they show toward other marine life in the wild.

What do they look like?
Orcas have a chunky black body with long oval-shaped white patches above their eyes and on their undersides. When orca calves are born they look slightly different and are often mistaken for false killer whales. Young orcas have a gentle yellow tint which gradually fades to white as they get older. Adult male orcas measure 6-8m long and can weigh over 6 tonnes, while adult female orcas generally measure 5-7m and can weigh up to 4 tonnes.

How do they live?
Orcas are very social animals and live in large families with complex social structures. Each pod can include family members from as many as four generations. This is because female orcas can reach a staggering 90 years old and remain part of the family until they die.

What do they eat?
Orcas change their diet according to what’s available where they live. Some hunt sea lions, seals, walruses and even other whales. But the orca whales in Tenerife stick mainly to fish and squid, since they’re both so readily available.

When can I spot them?
The best time to spot orca whales in Tenerife is during the summer months (June, July and August) when they pass by while migrating and following the bluefin tuna as it returns to the Mediterranean Sea.

The tail of a sperm whale sticking out of the water

You’re most likely to see sperm whales in Tenerife during spring

Sperm whales

The sperm whale is the largest toothed predator in the world and there are around 240 of them permanently living in the waters around the Canary Islands. As well as being the largest, they’re also one of the deepest diving whales, known to descend 2km underwater.

What do they look like?
Sperm whales are entirely dark grey, with wrinkled-looking skin and without a true dorsal fin. They’ve got a very large and distinct block-shaped forehead that can be around 1/3 of the body length. Females typically grow to 11m long and weigh up to 14 tonnes, while males reach 20m in length and weigh up to 67 tonnes.

How do they live?
The sperm whales in Tenerife live in groups made up of 6-9 adult females up to 60 years old, plus their calves. Male sperm whales are solitary animals and migrate alone to feed.

What do they eat?
Sperm whales live 3-5km off the coast, where the ocean plunges 4km down. They choose this spot because it’s where the giant squid, their favourite food, lives. Sperm whales use their incredible echolocation abilities to hunt for their prey in complete darkness.

When can I spot them?
Although there are sperm whales in Tenerife all-year-round, the best time to spot them is during the spring months (March, April and May) when even more of them migrate to the Canaries to mate.

Occasionally, blue whales travel through the waters around Tenerife during winter

Blue whales

The largest animal that’s ever lived on Earth, the blue whale used to live in almost all the oceans across the world, until the start of the 20th century when they were hunted on a huge scale. Although this reduced their numbers and breeding abilities considerably, you can still spot blue whales in Tenerife occasionally.

What do they look like?
Blue whales have long, slender bodies which are mostly blue-grey in colour, with a lighter tint underneath. They can grow up to 30m long and weigh up to a massive 173 tonnes. Their dorsal fins are tiny in comparison to their overall size (just 28cm tall) and they’re known for their flat, U-shaped heads and prominent ridges which run between their upper lips and blowholes.

How do they live?
Blue whales prefer to live in pairs or alone than in large groups. Because they’re so spread out, these animals need to communicate over long distances, which they do remarkably well. They can emit sounds which travel an astonishing 800km through the ocean.

What do they eat?
Krill is the food of choice of the blue whale and just one animal can eat up to an astounding 40 million krill in one day. They gorge themselves on these tiny creatures in the Antarctic before migrating to the warmer waters of the Canaries to breed.

When can I spot them?
The best time to see blue whales in Tenerife is during the winter months (December, January and February) when they head for warmer, more favourable conditions for mating.

Want to learn more about whales in Tenerife? Take a look at this post on whale watching in Tenerife, which covers the more common species of whales you can see around the Canaries, as well as the best times to spot them.


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