Setting off from the hotel we begin the hour and a half drive to the town of Los Gigantes. The road winds through the mountainous countryside and the views are amazing. As we get closer to Los Gigantes the weather begins to change; we leave behind the dark, grey clouds and drive into the warm sunlight. We are nearly there when we see a Guardia Civil van parked in the middle of the road and we are signalled to stop. The officer walks over to the car and asks where we are from and where we are going before allowing us to continue.
The town of Los Gigantes is located at the foot of the cliffs and is very beautiful and quaint. We head down to the office selling tickets for the Gladiator U and the Nashira Uno, the boats that we found on the internet before our trip. We are greeted by a rep who advises us that the Nashira Uno is fully booked today, but that there are places available on the Gladiator U in about half an hour. We book our tickets and make our way into the port.
I am surprised by the amount of English voices that I hear from people who appear to be ex-pats, rather than tourists. I also notice that there are many Real Estate offices offering most, if not all, of the information in English. We learn that the town was developed in the 1960s, following British investment and that the year-round climate in this region is among the best in the world.
The Gladiator U is twelve metres long and is faster than some of the other boats in the area. We head out of the port and towards an area where the captain knows there are some short-finned pilot whales.
Short-finned pilot whales are amongst the largest delphinids; males can reach lengths of seven metres and weigh over 3,500 kilograms. Pilot whales are highly social animals and are often found in pods of 20 to 100 individuals (some groups may number over 1,000) and are typically found in deep waters. Recent studies have found that short-finned pilot whales off the coast of the Canary Islands make foraging dives of depths up to 1019 metres and 21 minutes in duration. They also engage in vertical sprints of 9 metres per second to catch fast moving prey. They mainly feed on squid, but also consume fish and feed via suction.
Humans have taken advantage of the highly social nature of these creatures, by hunting them in ‘drive fisheries’, in which pods are herded into shallow water and driven to the beach where they are slaughtered. They have also been hunted in harpoon-gun whaling operations in the Pacific for centuries for their meat, blubber and oil. From 1985 to 1989 Japan took a total of 2,326 short-finned pilot whales. In the 19th century American whalers used pilot whales as “practice” for hunting sperm whales.
A pod of short-finned pilot whales have chosen the waters off the coast of Los Gigantes as their permanent home, as have a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. In total there are 27 different cetacean species that either reside in or temporarily use these waters.
We spend some time photographing the whales and admiring the cliffs (los acantilados de los Gigantes) in the background before heading towards Masca Bay, where those who have chosen to take the Masca walk through the magnificent ‘barranco de Masca’ are collected. The three hour walk from the village to the bay, reputed to once have been a pirate hideaway, is considered to be one of the most rewarding walks in the world.
We travel back along the impressive cliffs of Los Gigantes, which are between 300 and 500 metres high. These cliffs are a basaltic geological feature and represent the highest cliffs in the Canary Islands. In the times of the Guanches they were known as the “Wall of Hell”.
When we arrive back in the port of Los Gigantes we walk into the town to find somewhere to have lunch. We are disappointed to find very ‘British’ menus in all of the cafeterias and restaurants, mostly offering meals such as fish and chips, pies, fish fingers and other ‘pub grub’. We decide that we will travel somewhere else to eat and choose Buenavista del Norte, a town on the North coast, not too far from where we are.
We set off, heading back into the mountains and away from sunny Los Gigantes. Soon we see a sign for Buenavista del Norte and turn off before checking the map. After a few minutes we turn a corner and find that we have probably taken the wrong turn – we are now on long, narrow and winding road through the Teno mountain range. The view is breathtaking, but this was not quite what we had in mind when we decided to drive to a nearby town for lunch!
The Teno mountains are over 1,000 metres high and, geologically, they are considered to be an independent part of the island. Millions of years ago Tenerife did not exist and, in its place, stood three independent islands. One of these islands was the Teno mountain range which, scientists believe, is the oldest part of Tenerife (approximately 10 million years old). The landscape is formed by steep rock formations and narrow canyons and the road that we are on is the only one connecting the small settlements.
After what seems like miles of hair pin bends and sheer drops we arrive at the ‘lost village of Masca’. This tiny village is situated within the Teno Rural Park and has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest categorised as a Historical Artistic Quarter. It was, until recently, virtually unknown and sits approximately 650 metres above sea level with only around 100 inhabitants. We discover that we have only travelled five kilometres from where we turned off at Santiago del Teide to Buenavista del Norte and are not even half way to Buenavista del Norte.
We finally arrive at Buenavista del Norte only to find that the restaurant we have found on Tripadvisor is closed today and there doesn’t seem to be very much here. We decide to continue on to Icod de los Vinos and to find somewhere to eat there, as it is a little closer to where we are staying. It is now closer to dinner time than lunch time and we are rather hungry. We find another restaurant on the internet, in Playa de San Marcos and decide to give that a try, however when we arrive that restaurant is closed too. It seems that many restaurants here close on Mondays and Tuesdays.
We take a walk down to the black sand beach and, as we are heading back towards the small promenade, we pass an Italian restaurant called Italia in Bocca. We don’t really fancy Italian food, but we are hungry and the restaurant has a great view of the beach and the bay, so we decide to stop here for dinner.
A man, who we suspect is the owner, greets us and we choose a table overlooking the beach. He tells us that apart from the food on the menu he also has a fresh barracuda which has been caught just off the nearby shore and he points to the rocks at the far side of the bay. We think that a freshly caught fish sounds much more appealing than pizza or pasta and order this with a salad and some papas arrugadas. He reappears a few minutes later with the fish (still uncooked) to show us; the fish is huge and he opens its mouth to show us the teeth. The fish comes beautifully presented on a silver platter with garlic and herbs and it is every bit as delicious as it looks.