Discovering Canary Islands Marine Life

Thanks to the year-round warm climate and diverse underwater ecosystem; the Canary Islands, which are part of Spain, are one of the best places in Europe for spotting marine life. The waters around these volcanic islands are teeming with everything from sea turtles and rays to dolphins and sharks, making the archipelago a fascinating place for snorkeling, scuba diving and boat trips. With 26 different species of marine mammals calling the waters around the Canary Islands home; you’re almost guaranteed to see something amazing if you venture out to sea. Here are just a few examples of Canary Islands marine life.

Canary Islands Marine Life

Short-finned pilot whales swimming in the sea, Canary Islands Marine Life
Pods of short-finned pilot whales live in between Tenerife and La Gomera


Short-finned pilot whales are the most common species of whale found in the Canaries. There are several groups of them which live permanently in between Tenerife and La Gomera, so you’re sure to see them if you go on a boat trip from the south of Tenerife. Because boat trips around the islands are so common, the whales are used to the vessels and regularly come up really close to see what’s going on, making for some amazing photo opportunities.

Although they’re not as common to see as short-finned whales, sperm whales are also spotted around the Canary Islands. These giant creatures grow up to 20.5m metres long; and live in huge groups of 20-25 female adults and their young ones. They’re particularly hard to spot because they can dive 3km below the water’s surface; then stay there for over 30 minutes when hunting their prey.

2 bottlenose dolphins in the sea, Canary Islands Marine Life
Bottlenose dolphins can be found throughout the waters around the Canaries


Roughly 6 species of dolphins live around the Canary Islands marine life; the most common of which is the bottlenose dolphin. Just like the pilot whales, there are a few pods which live in the sea between Tenerife and La Gomera; meaning you can spot them all-year-round without having to go too far out to sea. These friendly, intelligent mammals live in family groups of up to 12 individuals; but will sometimes join up with other groups to make larger pods.

Common dolphins are also regularly spotted in this part of the world. Although not as famous as the bottlenose dolphin, this species is just as beautiful, with a unique colour pattern on its body. Its back is a dark blue-grey shade, while its belly is a dull white and its sides feature an hourglass shape that can be anything from grey to yellow or even gold in colour.

Overhead shot of small port, Canary Islands Marine Life
El Puertito is an amazing place to spot sea turtles


One of the best places to see turtles in the Canary Islands is off the coast of El Puertito in La Caleta, Tenerife. This tiny port is home to several loggerhead turtles which remain in the bay throughout the year. These turtles are so docile and friendly that you can scuba dive or snorkel alongside them without bothering them at all.

Green turtles also pay this part of the island a visit during their migration stage. Named because of the colour of their fat and cartilage (not the colour of their shell), the green turtle is the only sea turtle herbivore and happily grazes on algae and seagrass, helping to keep the seabed healthy flourishing.

About Nicola Quinn


Nicola is a travel and food writer living in the Canary Islands who loves exploring far-off places, pushing herself to the limit and trying local eats wherever she goes.

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