Pilot whale

This marine mammal belongs to the family of oceanic dolphin, the full name is Short-finned pilot whale. The Latin name is Globicephala macrorhynchus.

Together with the Long-finned pilot whales they form the family of Globicephala, Pilot whales. In areas where both species can be found it is hardly possible to distinguish them only by sight. To be able to do so you have to get a very close look. One possibility to differentiate them is by comparing the length of the pectoral flippers relative to total body length.

Pilot whales are close relatives of the Orcas or Killerwhales. As do Killer whales, Pilot whales livetheir entire lifes in permanent social groups, so-called pods or schools. The size of those groups varies between 10 and 30 members.


The Pilot whale off the coast of La Gomera

In the Atlantic Ocean between the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, there is a high number of Pilot whales living permanently, therefore we have a very high probability to see them during our whale watching trips throughout the year.

What we get to see during these sightings is quite impressive, since the pilot whales have a calm character they mostly relax during the day when they are not hunting.

These mammals usually relax in groups, staying close together while floating on the water surface. Mostly all members of the group are positioned in the same direction. From boats that approach carefully and quietly, they don´t seem to be disturbed.

Latest Pilot whale sightings

General Informationen

Pilot whales can be between 4 and 7 meters long, whereas the males are clearly larger. These mammals can dive quite deep, up to 1200 meters, but with a maximum of 20 minutes relatively short time.

Pilot whales are primarily nocturnal. This results in the fact that their favorite food, the deep sea calamars, move upwards from the deep at night. There, at a depth of about 300 meters, Pilot whales can track them down more easily and capture them. If they cannot find their favorite food, they also feed on small fish and mollucs

Distinctive features

The most obvious characteristic of pilot whales is their bulbous melon, the head. They have no beak and the back fin has a typical shape, with a rounded tip.

The body of the animals is of strong stature, the color is either deep black or dark gray. On the underside of the body they have a gray or white spot.


Pilot whales prefer warmer waters. They can be found in all tropical and subtropicla seas.

Off the coasts of the Canary Islands, especially between Tenerife and La Gomera, there live about 500 pilot whales during the entire year – a unique population worldwide.

Whales and Dolphins of La Gomera

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Recent sightings off the coast of La Gomera