Cetaceans in Fuerteventura

In our dear archipelago, belonging to La Macaronesia, we’re lucky to enjoy ideal oceanographic and geomorphological conditions for the coexistence of tropical sea species coming from the North and the ones coming from the warm or cold South.
These characteristics turn us into one of the places in the world with the widest cetacean variety in its waters, no doubt ranking at the top in Europe. According to the scientists and scholars Vidal Martín and Manuel Carrillo (Red Canaria de Varamientos y Sociedad para el Estudio de los Cetáceos en Canarias), in the Canary Island waters 30 cetacean species have been identified, including whales and dolphins.
The first whale watching we have records of date back to the first century B.C; the data were recorded in a text by Plinio about the large number of whales coming to our coasts. Aboriginal remains of vertebrae and ribs belonging to big cetaceans, as well as decorative elements and carved whale bones reveal that these huge water mammals have been living in our waters for centuries.
According to Vidal Martín, the main species we have records of are: beaked whales, sperm whales and the long-finned pilot whales (great depths divers that can dive to depths below 3000 m. in order to feed themselves with great depths cephalopods and crustaceans). There are also several species of dolphins and whales (fin, sei and Bryde’s whales), some of which feed on schools of fish and breed and live in our waters, in some cases even for several years.
The tourist sector is beginning to take up whale watching near our coasts, and according to some experts this is an activity that, well organized, shouldn’t mean a threat for the cetaceans. In the South of Tenerife, La Gomera and Gran Canaria boat trips for whale watching are easier, as cetaceans are usually found in quiet waters, very near the coast. In Fuerteventura and Lanzarote it’s a bit more complicated due to a greater instability of their waters, although this activity is mounting and so is our tourist offer as far as water experiences is concerned.
In our island of Fuerteventura you can find “La senda de los Cetáceos” (the cetaceans’ pathway), a scientific, artistic and social initiative that consists of displaying the remains of the skeletons of several cetaceans on our beaches in public areas, using them as source of information and environmental awareness. This initiative offers artists the chance to intermingle landscape, art and nature, and it offers scientists the chance to study the skeleton of these huge sea animals once other aspects have been studied such as the possible causes of beaching and the death of the cetaceans that every year reach our coasts. We can find some of these sculptures in places such as Las Salinas del Carmen (Puerto del Rosario), where the huge skeleton of a 19,5 metre-long female fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)was  found stranded on the 18th April 2000 in the coast of Majanicho (La Oliva).
In El Saladar de Jandia, Morro de Jable (Pájara)the skeleton of a 14,5 meter-long male sperm whale (Phuseter macrocephalus) has been displayed since 2006; it was found stranded in El Granillo (Pájara) in 2004.  Other sculptures in this pathway are Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), the short-finned pilot whale (Globicepahla macrorhynchus), considered as a vulnerable species in the National catalogue of endangered species, and a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus).
The osteological study of these animals tries to reveal if there are macaronesian populations or even exclusive in the Canary Islands, as osteological variations in species that have adapted to a determined area have been produced.

In the trips we carry out with FuerteCharter, in many occasions, we are really lucky to have the chance to watch these impressive mammals that come to meet us, mainly in the Island of Lobos area. Sometimes they approach us as if they wanted to say hello, and those moments are a really incredible experience not just for our customers but for ourselves, the crew, too.

In next articles we’ll provide a classification of the different cetaceans living in majorera waters, to explain the peculiarities of these big mammals.
Notes about Cetaceans:
– Huge mammals who live exclusively in the water and don’t need the solid ground in order to give birth.
– They are divided into two sub-orders: Mysticeti (bearded cetaceans which feed themselves filtering the water-food through their beard) and Odontoceti (homodont hunters, whose teeth are all the same type)
-Longevity: it varies depending on the species; ranging between 30 years in some dolphins and 60 years in the case of pilot whales.
– They feel threatened by the use of high-frequency sonar in naval exercises, by high-speed vessel crashing ferries or freighters and by oil platforms, noise pollution and habitat degradation.

FuerteCharter’s Team 

Fuerteventura and fishing

Historic evidences and archaeological remains point out the importance that fishing has had as an essential activity for this island’s inhabitants, and also its importance as a feeding source for the «majorera» population, especially in periods of drought and famine. The productivity of our sea (the biggest in the Canarian archipelago, even today) has contributed to keep this important sailing tradition.

Inshore fishery in Fuerteventura, one of the island’s hallmarks, has been one of majorero sailors’ main activities, who on board of little boats (roar and Latin sail boats in the old days, engine boats nowadays) have been fishing in their shores. The ancient settlers in Fuerteventura, The «mahos», practised fishing and shell fishing as a complementary activity to their predominant pastoral economy. The importance of shell fishing is determined by the existence of several middens (accumulations of sea mollusc shells like limpets, mussels or « burgaos», together with some ceramics and stone gadgets) found in several spots in the coast, as well as in some villages and settlements. Majorero aborigines used to fish in the shore, coastal fish like «Viejas», «samas» or morays.

Among the techniques used by aborigines we find: night fishing with torch wicks, fishing with rods and bone hooks, and fishing with traps made of rush. The most interesting technique used by ancient majoreros is «el barbasco» or «embroscado», which consists of catching the fish in little puddles at the shore, when the tide was low. To do this they dissolved the sap from either the «cardón» or the «tabaiba» (mullein) into the puddle water. The toxic properties of this milky sap made fish sleepy and allowed catching it even with their own hands.

Fuerteventura’s coastline is splashed with little fishing villages, many of them with a long fishing tradition. Some of these villages were, in the beginning, improvised shelters, caves or temporary shacks, where fishers went at determined periods of the year in search of better fishing; this is the case of Los Molinos or Pozo Negro.

In the old days, sailors used to have great economic difficulties; fish was cheap, and there was no money in Fuerteventura. Bartering was the basis of the home economics for a long time.

The shortage was one of the reasons why children went out into the sea so soon, to learn this trade which passed on from fathers to sons and that has traditionally been an exclusively male trade; a lot of children, younger than 10, were sailing on their fathers’ little boats, and they even embarked deep sea fishing in Africa when they were hardly 12 or 14. Meanwhile, women were the ones running the house due to the almost permanent absence of their husbands (fishing on board). Even the agreements with middlemen for the sale of fish were female tasks; they controlled the fish weight and were paid.

Majorero fishermen, experts in the fishing arts, the seabed, the wind and the most interesting species were also expert sailors, but they never needed either nautical charts or equipment; they fixed their position by taking a bearing from land just using their good eyesight and sense of orientation.

Nowadays fishing survives thanks to the sailors’ initiative, as they have known how to keep the majorero sea’s resources. But building, mainly touristic building on the coast, the pressure by other production sectors and the rise in the cost of living made it difficult, at the end of the XX C, to devote to inshore fishing, a profession that has been partly recovered today.

If you want to know every single detail of the fishing history in Fuerteventura we invite you to visit the «Museo de la Pesca Tradicional del Faro de Cotillo».

FuerteCharter´s team

Isla de Lobos, Fuerteventura

To the northwest of Fuerteventura, a bit further than 2km. away from Corralejo, we find Isla (o islote) de Lobos; an almost virgin area, a paradise of birds and flora that cannot be found anywhere else in our planet. It is one of the oldest areas in the Canarian Archipelago (dating from the Pleistocene), one of the wildest and furthest from human intervention areas. It consists of lava flows and volcanic sand deposits, eroded by Alisian winds, and marked by dry weather. In the old days —XV C— this island was inhabited by pirates and by some monk seals —known as sea lions by natives, hence this island’s name— which were exterminated by fishermen who considered them as a danger due to the great amount of fish they needed (among 30-40 kg per day) in order to survive. At present it is a threatened species —being hunted by men in order to get their fur and their fat— and there are just a few settlements left.

Canarian paradise

Up to 1968, this islet was inhabited by Antonio Hernán­dez Páez —Antoñito «el farero» — and his family, but the lighthouse he watched over, Martiño’s lighthouse, was restored and nowadays it works automatically. This island was also the Spanish writer Josephina Pla’s birth place, in 1903; she was a poet, a playwright, a narrator, an essayist, a ceramist, an art critic and a journalist. Although she was born Spanish, her name and her work are totally linked to the Paraguayan culture in the XX C, where she arrived in 1927.
Nowadays in this island there is a small settlement of houses —Known as El Puertito— consisting of fishermen huts that come here in summer or at the weekends to enjoy the peace and quietness that can be breathed in this paradise, and some of them, like Elías and Tita, enjoy this peace all over the year.
Isla de Lobos —made of small cliffs and creeks of turquoise waters— was one of the first natural areas in the Canary Islands to be protected. In 1982 it was declared Natural park (together with Corralejo’s dunes), but due to its environmental value, in 1994 it came to be known as The Natural Park Isla de Lobos.
At present it has been declared as ZEPA (special area for protection of birds), IBA (important bird area) and LIC (Place of communal interest), which has made it compulsory to demarcate restricted areas so as not to damage any of the species that inhabit it, due to their fragility.
Moreover, Lobos has a high heritage and ethnographic value, as it counts on salines, lime kilns, cisterns, Martiño’s Lighthouse (built in 1865) and several paleontological sites (belonging to the Jandiense and Erbanense periods).
A great biodiversity exists in Lobos, as it houses settlements of Canarian endemic species that can only be found there, like Limonium ovalifolium ssp. Canariensis; as well as the great amount of migrant and sea birds that live and fly over the islet. There are around 300 caves where the cory’s shearwater (Calonectris Diomeda) and the little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis) live. Even couples of fisher eagles have been seen; also, in this islet’s volcanic cliff hollows several birds, like the petrel de Bulwer, the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) and the wilson’s storm-petrel (Oceanites Oceanicus) live. Occasionally we can find, in the dunes of the northern side, the famous houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulate), now in danger of extinction. Other migrant birds that have arrived in Lobos are the grey heron (Ardea Cinerea), little egret (Egreta garzetta), Eurasian curlew (Numenius Arquata), little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius), spoonbills (Plateinae)… and some other species that have been nesting like the Egyptian vulture (Neophron pernocterus). In addition to this important avifauna there are also small lizards, wall lizards, rabbits… and most of all sea beds considered among the best in the Atlantic, where there are plenty of barracudas (Sphyraena), Viejas (Cichlidae), sargos (Diplodus sargus sargus) and rays, which turn diving this islet into an authentic and unique show of colour and diversity.

In the African coast, to the South of the Saharan lands, we can find one of the few settlements of monk seals, gathering around 100 specimens. From time to time, some of them can be caught sight of from the East of our Archipelago, as these wonderful animals seem not to have forgotten their old home.

FuerteCharter´s setting

As we said in the introduction of this blog, living in an island like Fuerteventura is a real stroke of luck. Anywhere you look at nature offers you spectacular sights.

FuerteCharter is lucky to carry out its daily activity — boat trips on Kayak, SUP and Snorkel— in the north-east of the Island of Fuerteventura, in the coastal town of Corralejo.

Corralejo —a town of seafarers that life turned into the most visited tourist site in the North of the island —is the link between Fuerteventura and our neighbour island, Lanzarote, from which “El estrecho de la Bocaina” separates us (15km), and in the middle of these two islands, wild and isolated, the islet of “Lobos” stands out. It seems that in ancient geological ages “El estrecho de la Bocaina” didn’t exist and the two island — as well as the islet of “Lobos” — made up a single tract of land.

The strait offers perfect conditions for sailing, due to the trade winds channelling, so this is the favourite daily route of FuerteCharter which, depending on the conditions, offers either trips to Lobos or journeys to the neighbour island, Lanzarote.
The branch of sea that separates Fuerteventura from Lobos is a canal known as “El Río”. It’s located 2km away from Corralejo, and its waters aren’t deeper than 10m.

The islet of “Lobos”, with an area of 6km2 and a maximum height of 127m at the volcanic cone of “La Caldera”, took its name from the ancient inhabitants of its coasts: a colony of monk and fur seals. This islet has a unique landscape and it is part of the Natural Park “Dunas de Corralejo”, a beauty which doesn’t leave indifferent to visitors and residents alike.  It’s an area of great wealth and biological value — land as well as sea bed, and it has been declared marine reserve— which we’ll describe more in detail in next articles, where we’ll tell you about the lighthouse-keeper —Antoñito—  and his family, who inhabited it until 1968, about its marine species, its wetlands, its beach of “La Concha” and its pretty little harbour.

Another of the charms we can highlight in this area are the different recommended scuba diving spots, like “El Veril del Calamareo”, with vaults and caves and corridors among rocks, “El Veril de La Bocaina”, “El Bajón del Río”, with a mix of rock and pristine sand, “El punto de los Becerros”, standing out because of the great amount of fish, and the area of “La Carrera”, with little currents and very protected from the winds.

No doubt, FuerteCharter enjoys a great privilege. Would you like to come and share it with us?

FuerteCharter’s team

FuerteCharter: more than a sailing trip

If you walk along Corralejo’s Wharf you will probably meet Ildefonso Chacón — better known as Fonfo—, a sea lover from the North of Fuerteventura, and the manager of our company FuerteCharter.

The relationship of Fonfo with the sea started when he was very young, as despite being from Puerto del Rosario his parents always had a house in Corralejo, in Waikiki beach. So, being knee-high to a grasshopper he had his first boat and in the different stages of his youth he practised all the water sports he found in his way.

Fonfo remembers the years when Fuerteventura, mainly Corralejo, was a desert paradise, with waves for the few people who dared ride them, and he also remembers some athletes visiting the islands, famous nowadays — like Björn Dunkerbeck — who were not but children then, displaying water tricks that majorero inhabitants could not have imagined.

They were other times, as he says, and although the deep solitude of the desert landscape hardly exists nowadays he is delighted with an island full of visitors and residents from so many different nationalities who have done their bit — and keep doing it — to enrich this paradise that his Island, Fuerteventura, is.

His sea calling, as we have said, took place when he was very young: we could say that salty water flows in his veins. And so did the business calling, as his charter company Fuertecharter, which nowadays is about to become 10, stemmed from other family companies: Deportes Chacón and Naútica Chacón.

At present Fonfo runs FuerteCharter together with his wife Inma Morales, also accompanied by an excellent working team, whom he is sincerely thankful for taking Fuertecharter to what it is nowadays: a charter company in Corralejo with many added values.

FuerteCharter’s main aim is to share with our clients —and infect them with— our love for the sea. It’s not all just about taking them on a sailing trip to Lobos, it’s not just about enjoying that sailing trip and the wonders of nature but about going beyond that, encouraging them to get challenges they had never considered before, offering them different activities like learning how to use a kayak, a SUP, breathing through a snorkel tube, having a bath surrounded by schools of fish, feeding them… Being open to learning new things every day!

In order to carry out these activities, Fuertecharter counts on two different kinds of vessels: a catamaran and an inflatable motor boat to rent for private sailing trips (closed groups) as well as for open groups. The experience and the knowledge of the area turn the combination of both vessels in the same trip into the best way of visiting our neighbour island, as apart from the incomparable sailing trip around Lobos Island, the inflatable motor boat will let you explore the little ponds in this place, a true paradise, difficult to describe with words.

We can go on to talk about Fuertecharter’s professionalism and pampering when dealing with all those people embarking on their adventures, but the best thing is that you come to try and tell other people about it. We’ll be waiting for you!

FuerteCharter’s team

Prickle pears: Fuerteventura landscape

Fuerteventura’s landscape is distinguished by its desert expanse. Kilometres of land that are presented to the eye and as endless plains where the sight gets lost, interrupted by some hills, volcanoes, mountains and “malpaises”.

However, so much flat arid terrain is often dotted with cactus, painting of green the most curious corners on this island of the wind.

The prickle pear cactus, as Opuntia cactus are called in the Canaries, are shrubby plants belonging to the genus of cacti.

There are around 250 subspecies of Opuntias and they all come from America, although in Europe many of them have been naturalized and are considered invasive.

They can be distributed from sea level to 3000 meters high.

In the Canaries, the first non-American territory where they were grown, there are two of these subspecies considered invasive and they have been naturalized on islands

  • Opuntia ficus
  • Opuntia dillenii

The other subspecies can be sometimes found scattered on the edges of roads or around detached houses.


The main feature of prickle pear cacti is growing in segments, called cladodes or “blades”, from which other cladodes sprout, as well as flowers, and also producing the delicious fruit: figs.

Cladodes have areolas, which are small lumps from which glochids arise, clusters of small thorns.

They can have very different sizes, from small bushes, shrubs or even treelike structure.

We will speak specifically about the invasive species in the Canary Islands (Opuntia ficus and Opuntia dillenii), which are those that give us such delicious fruit: the so called “higo pico”, “higo picón” or “tuno”, and which are also responsible for the large number of cochineal which introduced The Canary Islands into the dye industry, as these insects, dried and used to produce carmine dye, abundantly proliferate in the prickle pear cactus.

This subspecies is known as “tunera común” and it features “blades” between 30 and 50cm, with not many little thorns. Adult “blades” may even not have thorns at all. Typically they reach 3-4 meters high.

Some people make a subtle difference between “Opuntia ficus-indica” or “Opuntia maxima”, which is the most abundant, and “Opuntia ficus-barbarica”, which have fewer thorns, but the difference is not that noticeable, not even professionals agree.

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura
Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura

Also known as Indian “tunera/penca” or “ink”. It features “blades” which are smaller than that of the “tunera común”, between 20 and 30 cm. The areolas have between 6 and 8 strong yellow thorns. They usually reach 2 meters high and the fruit pulp is typically red. It isn’t usual to find it above 300m of altitude, so it predominates in the coastal area.

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura

It is recommended catch “tunos” upwind, to prevent it from thrusting the thorns towards us. Also, using tongs and, once caught, throwing them to the ground and sweep them, or rubbing them against other resinous plant, so that thorns stick together. Hence it is advisable to put them under running water to remove any remaining thorns.

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura

Fuertecharter Team


Living in an island

 Living in an island, even for just a few days, makes you different.

Just the feeling of being surrounded by the sea calms you down —hence why people joke about the islanders’ placid character—. Maybe the majesty of its waters, which seems to stop time, makes you stop too and watch the sunrises and sunsets, the vast starry sky…

There are thousands of islands, some of them desert and some others inhabited, some closer and some farther away from civilization, some colder and some others warmer, many of them are paradise islands, but very few of them like Fuerteventura, enjoying good weather 12 moths a year and a 265 km coast line, which turn it into one of the preferred sun and beach tourist destinations and into one of the best European “aquatic parks”.

There is no feeling like that of waking up early in the morning, getting a foot out of the bed and almost feel the fresh morning mist on the beach sand. The sea is calling you, with the ceaseless lapping of the waves on the shore, so that you get ready to enjoy a new day bathed by the wind, the sun and the salt on the sea breeze.

Corralejo’s wharf is waiting for you, a little lethargic this early, and you hear the clinking of the sheets on the masts, as if impatient to meet the sea, as if the night had been too long and they had rested so much that they felt over-energetic and needed to take that boat ride.

And this is because Fuerteventura is a paradise that invites everyone to go on the sailing adventure.

Just looking at the horizon and following the sinuous outline of Lobos, with its latent magic, makes you feel attracted to the sea. A deep blue which becomes lighter and lighter until it turns turquoise; thousands of sea species that say hello to you and seem to even caress your boat and make you feel that you’re a part of this whole that the ocean is.

Living in an island like this one binds you to the sea almost unavoidably. In the wide offer of water activities there are options for everyone, from fishing, boat rides, to thousands of water sports: surf, kitesurf, windsurf, SUP, scuba diving, kayak, snorkel… all of them at your fingertips so that you decide, according to the conditions of the day and your skills, which one you prefer. Maybe today you fancy a catamaran ride!

Living in an island like this one is a fortune that from this moment and in this blog we’re going to share with all of you, letting you know about the environment, the activities, the fauna, the history, the interesting facts about this land, and its people, irredeemably bound to their surrounding sea.

If you are lucky to live in this paradise you’ll understand us perfectly well, and if you’re visitors or future visitors in our coasts, once you have lived for some days in the peace and quiet of this desert paradise, we know you’ll never forget Fuerteventura, and you’ll be able to follow us so that the island remains in your memories and you don’t miss the chance, if you have it, to visit us again.

                                                                                                                                                           FuerteCharter Team

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