Title graphic Spanish Dolphins
Striped dolphins
Orca
Common dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins
Pilot whales
In July 2009 we travelled to Tarifa at the southern-most point of Spain for some dolphin-watching in the Strait of Gibraltar. We had encounters with five species of dolphin in total, including the largest of all - orca or killer whales - from our little boat Rainbow.
Striped dolphins
For me, the striped dolphins were the main attraction on this trip. We saw several huge groups of them and they seemed to have masses of excess energy which they used in highly acrobatic displays of fast porpoising and breaching. Striped dolphins also love to bow-ride. They swim in the pressure waves of boats of all sizes, including the huge cargo ships that pass through the Strait.

Striped dolphin bow-riding cargo ship
Striped dolphin
Striped dolphin Striped dolphin
Striped dolphins Striped dolphins
Striped dolphin Striped dolphin

Orca
During the summer, bluefin tuna migrate through the Strait of Gibraltar and attract pods of transient orca. The orca compete with the Spanish and Moroccan fishermen for the tuna, and hence make themselves somewhat unpopular. It is said that the orca have learned that the noise of a longline being reeled in means 'dinner is served', and they certainly seemed to make a bee-line for some of the fishing boats. Because they were busy hunting, the orca we saw were quite 'businesslike' and didn't waste any energy on acrobatic displays.
Orca Orca
Orca Orca
An orca heads off for its dinner
Orca
Common dolphins (short-beaked)
Short-beaked common dolphins are often seen in mixed groups with striped dolphins in the Strait, but we didn't see many common dolphins on this trip. 
Short-beaked common dolphins Short-beaked common dolphin
Mixed group of common & striped dolphins
Mixed group of common and striped dolphins
Bottlenose dolphins
The bottlenose dolphins seemed to be the most reliable of the species in the Strait of Gibraltar - we saw them on most of our days at sea. As is usual for this species, they were confident around the boat and fairly acrobatic, but not as energetic as the striped dolphins. 

Bottlenose dolphin next to boat
Bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin Bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin
Pilot whales (long-finned)
Long-finned pilot whales are quite subdued in comparison with the other dolphin species in the Strait, and therefore not easy to spot. We encountered one group on our first day out at sea, but didn't have any more close encounters for the rest of the week. 
Long-finned pilot whale Long-finned pilot whales

Our boat Rainbow
Dolphin-watching boat 'Rainbow'
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Last updated 6 December 2009