Whale watching off Tenerife

By | Category: Travel destinations

Whether we can holiday overseas this year or not remains a debating point but it does seem that if Britons can travel anywhere it may well be to islands where infection rates have, on the whole, been lower.

grey whale in between two tourist boats
These are grey whales. In tenerife, protection means you won’t be able to get this close to the whales

One popular island has always been Tenerife in the Canaries and now it has another attraction for holidaymakers.

The west coast of the island has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for cetacean conservation, making it the first Whale Heritage area in Europe. The area has also been awarded Responsible Watching certification, a distinction granted by the World Cetacean Alliance. This recognition encourages the responsible observation of the area’s dolphins and whales,

A colony of about 500 pilot whales live throughout the year in the stretch of water around Tenerife and La Gomera in the 22km marine arm which separates Faro de Rasca and Punta de Teno. 

Twenty-six of the more than 79 species of cetaceans that inhabit the entire planet, such as dolphins, orcas or blue whales, pass through the Canary Islands. Many cetaceans can be sighted just 20 minutes off the coast of the islands thanks to the depth of the waters and the mild climate of the Canaries making it easy for visitors to see them – provided they want to be seen that day!

Chloé Yzoard, a research biologist at the University of La Laguna, says that because the Canaries are volcanic islands and there is a substantial depth to the ocean floor within just a few metres off the islands, the area attracts whales. In one day she said, she had seen nine different species of cetaceans claiming that are unlikely to see that number, in one day, anywhere else in the world.

Don’t think that you can hire any old boat and visit the area.  In Spain, cetaceans are protected by law, but in Tenerife there is, in addition, a code so that an official surveillance boat in attendance.

Boats need a permit and boat owners have to respect the code which allows a protection zone of 500 metres in which there can only be three boats at any one time. The code also prohibits boats coming closer than 60m to the whales.

For those who had planned trips in their minds to the Caribbean, Australasia,  southern Africa or the Pacific to watch whales, they now have a choice closer to home with protection for the whales from tourism pollution.

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