You'll have a whale of a time looking for oceanic entertainment in the water around the Canaries

When the captain of a whale and dolphin-watching boat based in Tenerife promises a sighting on every outing, it's tempting to raise an eyebrow. How can they be so sure?

The answer is intriguing: many of the whales and dolphins plying the waters around the Canaries throughout the year, though totally wild, limit their roamings to a surprisingly narrow home range. It's common for a particular pod to be seen time and again in the same patch of water close to the coast.

Scientific studies of Canarian bottlenose dolphins seem to confirm their home-loving tendencies. The Canarian whale and dolphin research foundation Secac (Sociedad para el Estudio de los Cetáceos en el Archipélago Canario) has discovered significant genetic differences between family groups from different parts of the archipelago. To a pod of dolphins, an island is a glittering oasis in the vast underwater desert that is the ocean. Once it has found a spot with plenty of fish, it stays put and doesn't mingle.

To date, more than a third of the world's cetacean species – some resident, some migrant – have been spotted in this pocket of the Atlantic. It's an impressive count for a region that is barely 300 nautical miles wide. As well as several types of dolphin, there are regular sightings of pilot and Bryde's whales. Of particular interest to Secac are the rare and little-studied beaked whales found in the more remote extremes of the archipelago. A recent survey near El Hierro revealed that these can dive to depths of 2km and spend more than two hours underwater.

A good range of specialist boat trips caters for those keen to catch a glimpse of a fluke or a fin. Tenerife has the lion's share; there are also a few on Gran Canaria – try Spirit of the Sea ( dolphin-whale.com ), which operates from Puerto Rico, in the south-west of the island. La Palma and La Gomera also have options.

Guidelines designed to minimise disturbance are in place; all boats are required to keep a respectful distance away from the wildlife, so photographers should come prepared with a good zoom lens.

Los Gigantes on Tenerife's west coast is a great place to board. Bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales seem particularly attached to this area, and it's attractive too, with ospreys wheeling over the rough-hewn cliffs. The sea is often glassy smooth, especially in winter, making spotting easier. Recommended boats include Nashiro Uno, a comfortable catamaran with room for 90 passengers (00 34 922 861 918; maritimaacantilados.com ; €25 for a two-hour trip, €35 for three hours), and Flipper Uno (0034 922 862120; flipperuno.com ), a handsome, vintage-style sailing boat.

The crew of Flipper Uno made headlines in August 2008 when they witnessed a bottlenose dolphin giving birth near Masca Bay. Even for an operator that promises some kind of sighting on every trip, this was quite a coup, and the photos are considered unique.

To dose up on theory before or after your trip, make time to visit Secac's Museo de Cetáceos de Canarias (0034 928 849560; museodecetaceos.org ) in Puerto Calero, the swish marina complex on Lanzarote's south coast. It's the only natural history museum on Spanish territory dedicated entirely to whales and dolphins.

In a hall hung with life-size models, there are real bones and teeth to handle, whale songs to listen to and compelling facts about how cetaceans breathe, sleep and communicate. Just outside, a complete skeleton of a Bryde's whale is mounted like a sculpture. The centre is open from Tue-Sat 10am-6pm (admission €8) and is easy to reach by water taxi from Puerto del Carmen (return plus admission €17) or by road from any of Lanzarote's resorts.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all