WE’RE lying face down on the net between the twin hulls of a catamaran. Below, in the calm, clear Atlantic waters swims a mother pilot whale and her calf. We are so close we could touch her.
Everyone on board falls silent; the stillness disturbed only by the “fwishhh” from the matriarch’s blowhole.
And then, in a breath, she’s gone; her calf in tow. They are off to join the rest of the pod, who are just off our bow, their dark arched backs slicing through the surface.
My 10-year-old daughter is awestruck. Barely able to speak, she mouths a single word: “Wow”. It is one of the most memorable moments of our lives and we can hardly believe that it is happening here, on a bucket-and-spade holiday to Tenerife. A whale and dolphin-watching trip with Mustcat Catamarans – who sail their Ocean Voyager 58 out of the old fishing port of Las Galletas – is worth every cent of the three-hour €41 trip. We are already wishing we had opted for the longer and more expensive alternative.
Our 17.5m-long and 8.5m-wide boat, with free bar, holds around 70 people and is buzzing with excited whale watchers aged eight months to 80 years.
Thanks to our knowledgeable guides, we quickly learn that pilot wales congregate in a deep trench between Tenerife and the pretty little island of La Gomera, to feed and to mate.
And they are here in abundance. When they finally leave us our skipper nudges the boat back towards land where he anchors under an outcrop of rock. It’s the perfect spot from which to escape the heat of the day and dive into the refreshing crystalline waters. Heaven!
My girl is over the moon with the experience which is a relief as we have chosen to base ourselves in captivating Candelaria in the north-east, not far from the island’s capital Santa Cruz and less visited by tourists than the resorts in the south.
But it is practically equidistant from Tenerife’s two airports (North and South – each around 30-40 minutes away).
The area is served by the TF 1 motorway which runs from the capital to Adeje in the south and the major resorts of Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas.
This means that the island’s most famous attractions such as the Water Kingdom at Siam Park and the spectacular Loro Parque are under an hour away.
Our home for the duration of the stay is a private five-bedroom, five-terrace villa with pool and sauna and spectacular sea views.
There are many villas and apartments for let in this prettier and much greener part of the popular Canarian island; some for as little as £27 per night. Be prepared to try out your Spanish though, as English is less widely spoken here.
Breakfast is taken on the main terrace, overlooking the ocean and walled garden, where luxuriant palm trees and cacti stand proud against the soft pinks and purples of the Bougainvillea. After a dip in the pool we’re off to sight see.
Candelaria is an enchanting town. The main attraction is its basilica, or church. Visiting on a Sunday is a special experience as the local people turn out in force for mass. It’s almost like being on a pilgrimage.
We wander around shops selling religious artefacts, flowers and souvenirs and gorge ourselves on churros (a kind of long skinny doughnut) dipped in chocolate – scrumptious!
The capital Santa Cruz is just 11 miles north. This cosmopolitan metropolis pulsates with life and culture. Its modern auditorium, designed by Santiago Caltrav, immediately puts us in mind of the Sydney Opera House.
And there is fabulous shopping to be had around the spectacular Plaza de Espana where top brands are available at tax-free prices.
Early in the year the capital becomes party central when carnival comes to town. This exciting event lays claim to rivalling anything that Brazil or New Orleans has to offer.
Parking in the city is a nightmare, though. The best advice we can offer is to go to a public parking space and from there take a taxi or walk to your destination.
Santa Cruz is also home to Playa de Las Teresitas, a palm-dotted golden beach. The sand – unlike the native volcanic black alternative – is imported from the Sahara. Lying on sunbeds under raffia parasols, we sip on Mojitos carried to us by beach waiters before snorkelling on its artificial reef.
Back at the villa, Stan Getz’s Girl from Ipanema streaming on to the terrace and a gentle wind tousling the palm fronds, it’s hard to believe we’re just a four-hour flight from Scotland.
Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen offer flights with various airlines and tour operators to Tenerife.
A three-hour whale and dolphin-watching cruise with Mustcat Catamarans costs €41. A four-and-a-half hour cruise is €54. See mustcatinfo.com
Villas and apartments in Candeleria, many with pools, are available through holidayhomes.com Some can be had for as little as €32 per night.