The Tenerife Diaries: Searching for Pilot Whales

Pilot Whales
Tenerife is often perceived as a place where people go to get drunk and lounge by busy pools for their entire stay. However, determined to unveil its true colours, we set out to explore. Only having 4 days was in fact a blessing, meaning that we made the most of every minute. Having seen just a bit of what the island has to offer, I would describe it as ‘a place of opportunity, with something for everyone’. Sun, sea, wildlife, trekking and fun- it’s all here on this mini-continent. 


After a lovely afternoon snorkelling with turtles the previous day, we were on a wildlife hype. We’d had a blissful sleep and an energising breakfast at the Atlantic Holiday Centre, and we were ready for Adventure #2. Having researched into the marine life around Tenerife, to say I was ‘excited’ is an understatement. In fact, I had done nothing but research the various tour operators since before I’d even purchased our flights. Amongst the infinite fleet of party boats and cramped vessels promising a glimpse of sea life near the shoreline, was the promising Tenerife Sailing Charters.


Tenerife Sailing Charters

Tenerife Sailing Charters offer yacht charters, for that touch of luxury. As this was a relatively budget trip (hence only staying 4 nights), we saw this tour as our big treat.  We opted for a 3-hour charter in the hopes of spotting some of the great marine life that Tenerife has to offer: turtles, dolphins and even pilot whales! Now, of course other companies offer very similar excursions, but there many reasons why you should go for these amazing people! First off, on other- only slightly cheaper- tours, you will be part of a crowd. During our trip, we passed many of these boats, with people fighting to get to the edge to see. Therefore, those boats have glass bottoms- you can’t get a decent view elsewhere. On the yacht, there were just 6 of us- plenty of room for all to enjoy! We chose to sit on the bow at the front of the yacht, feeling like celebrities!

Second, Tenerife Sailing Charters are run by knowledgeable guides. José was extremely friendly, making everyone feel involved. He gave us cava, beers and soft drinks throughout the trip. We were offered freshly-made sandwiches. He told us all about the marine life. Chill-out music was played throughout the trip. It was just perfect. Thirdly, the busier tours are only legally allowed to go so far away from the shore. With Tenerife Sailing Charters, we spent the full three hours going far out towards La Gomera then back round Los Gigantes. On top of the amazing fun we had, the views of Tenerife were spectacular.

view from the yacht

A Brief Glimpse

As mentioned earlier, Tenerife has incredible marine life. From turtles and dolphins, to sting rays, orcas and pilot whales. The Atlantic Ocean surrounding Tenerife offers the perfect temperatures leading these beautiful creatures to pass through while migrating. After about an hour of sailing, we were nearing whale territory, but half an hour later we were yet to spot anything. Trying desperately not to feel disappointed, I perched on the bow, searching and feeling fortunate to even be on a yacht with a glass of bubbly.

Staring longingly into the distance, I was thrown back to our search for the Northern Lights. That feeling where the thing you are looking for is completely out of anyone’s control. Just like I had in Iceland, I reminded myself that when the nature was ready, it would show itself. Far away, I thought I saw something emerge and then disappear again in the water. Just for a brief second. Confused, I kept my eyes on that point. Seconds later, the same again. Not quite believing or understanding what I had seen, I tried to discreetly show my partner. José, the captain, clocked my gestures and turned the yacht accordingly. Sure enough, it wasn’t just my eyes playing tricks.


Pilot Whales

As we edged nearer, we could see 6-10 tell-tale fins as a group of pilot whales drifted elegantly through the water. José kept a distance from the beautiful creatures, and switched off the engine so that we could appreciate them without being intrusive. Incredibly, they swam closer and closer until two even surprised us by coming up from beneath the yacht! The gentle pilot whales moved effortlessly in pairs, apart from one who we believed to be the male. A young calf completed the group, showing off as it played about in calm sea. N.B. The colour difference in the photos is due alternating between my camera and my phone to take pictures!

Edging Closer

Pilot Whales

There is something so serene about watching these gentle creatures glide through the tranquil, inky blue sea. I just couldn’t look away from them for fear of missing them. Again, as there were only a few people on the yacht, the experience was peaceful with just the sounds of the soft waves and pilot whales.

Pilot Whales


As we eventually had to continue back to the shore, I stared longingly back at the mammals, not wanting to leave. José took us across to El Puertito for a spot of snorkelling before we returned to Fanabe port feeling blissfully happy.


Searching for Pilot Whales, my top tips:

  • Go with Tenerife Sailing Charters! We paid £45 each which included everything, and although the yacht holds a maximum of 11 people there were only 6 of us on the day. The combination of having room to relax, having a knowledgeable guide, and having little extras makes the experience. They also pick you up and drop you off at your hotel within 20km of playa de Las Americas!
  • Tenerife Sailing Charters are also ethical in the way that they carry out their tours. This means that when you see the whales, you can be sure that you aren’t harming or scaring them.
  • Enjoy the experience. Again, this is nature we are talking about. Don’t be the person who complains about the company because they didn’t see the wildlife. It’s not their fault! Instead, enjoy the experience as a whole. The views of the island are incredible from the yacht, and sitting on the bow with a glass of bubbly will have you feeling like a star!
  • Keep looking. When I first spotted the whales, it just looked like little random waves from a distance. Make sure that you also look out for other marine life. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything else, but you might!
  • Keep quiet. You don’t want to scare the whales off once they have shown up!
  • Take pictures. But still remember to take yourself away from the camera to just take in the beautiful creatures.

Have you been whale watching in Tenerife? Have you been lucky enough to spot pilot whales? Maybe you’re considering Tenerife for your next adventure? Let me know in the comments, I’ll happily answer any questions too!


Emilie x

13 thoughts on “The Tenerife Diaries: Searching for Pilot Whales

  1. We went to Tenerife last summer! There were dolphins and pilot whales following our boat for a good two hours! Such an amazing experience I will never forget it, plus it’s set the standard for this year’s trip, this year I’m searching for orcas! Your trip sounds amazing!

    1. That’s incredible! Tenerife is just so beautiful isn’t it?!
      Amazing, where are you searching for them? Funnily enough I’m going to Norway in December to look for orcas!!

        1. Wow that’ll be fantastic, my parents did that a few months ago and they saw orcas while the sun was setting one evening! You’ll get to see ice caps as well, and maybe bears?! I’m so jealous! Xx

  2. beautiful creatures! They’d come once in a while in Maldives – they are predators to spinner dolphins, and these would kind of disappear for a few days when the pilot whales were in the area.

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