Dolphin Discovery

The winds have been relatively strong since we arrived, meaning that the seas have been choppy, and blows from whales difficult to spot. This also means that some areas are inaccessible on certain days, depending on the direction of the wind. Fortunately however, barring truly horrible weather, there are almost always areas that are accessible and reasonably calm.

A few days ago, with winds from the east, we decided to head north where we'd be in the lee, sheltered by the northernmost headland of the island group. The waters in the area known as "North Bay" that day were a perfect shade of blue.

whalesWe immediately spotted three active whales...surfacing, diving, charging, playing...doing humpback stuff typical of a heat run situation, during which bulls establish pecking order. Upon entering the water, we immediately realised that the area was buzzing with activity.

In addition to the usual frenzy associated with a humpback heat run, there were dolphins everywhere, mixing in and playing with the whales. I've seen this before, but with the clear blue visibility and the sheer number of dolphins, this was by far the best such encounter I've had.

Of course, I wanted to get whales and dolphins together in one photo, but the action was happening too quickly for me to keep up. All the cetaceans clearly knew we were in the water and didn't seem to mind, but they stayed just within visual range...just out of camera range. Cetaceans seem to have a talent for teasing, taunting and torturing photographers.

On one particular drop, I strategically waited until my two companions had gone some distance before I entered the water (Actually, I was just dead tired and needed to catch my breath.). When I got in, I saw a phalanx of dolphins approaching in the blue haze.

dolphinsTaking a deep breath, I dived down to about 15 metres and waited. Much to my delight, a small group took an interest and swam in to check me out. Perfect light, perfect visibility...snap, snap, snap!

It wasn't until later that I realised that there were actually two species of dolphins mixed into the fray: rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis), which I've never encountered before, and pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata).

Apparently, encounters with and photos of rough-toothed dolphins aren't common, so I guess I was really lucky.

Shortly thereafter, the three whales departed and another pair of humpbacks entered the area, once again interacting with the dolphins and us.

Once all was said and done, the frolicking marine mammals had made us swim for 3-4km each, in choppy seas with strong current. I nearly threw up from exhaustion.