Early in the morning on Thursday, the Bimini team woke up and accomplished a few hours of data entry and photo-ID work. We ate lunch together and then left for the docks to go on the boat trip for the day, departing an hour earlier than normal at 2 PM. At precisely 3:17 PM a group of 16 bottlenose dolphins was spotted just to the left of the bow. Garion jumped up so quickly that he almost forgot to start logging data for the sighting. A few minutes later, Kel, Dr. Kaplan, Dr. Maust-Mohl, Garion, and half of the student group entered the water heavily armed with video cameras and enthusiasm while Mathew stayed on the boat to record data and Nicole took surface photos. It was Garion’s first time ever swimming with dolphins, and he said it was one of the greatest things he had ever done in his life! They swam for nearly 30 mins while the dolphins were crater feeding below, and there were several close “fly-bys” from which everyone managed to get detailed photos for ID. Later in the trip we came across a group of four Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Juliette (#12), un-named #101 and #102, as well as a juvenile female that DCP saw during one of the boat trips with Sacred Heart University. (Want to be the lucky one who gives #102 her name?? You can!) Kel and Garion recorded data on the boat while Nicole, Dr. Kaplan, Dr. Maust-Mohl, Mathew, and the other half of the student group entered the water to film and take pictures. The spotted dolphins seemed far more accustomed to humans and were much more inquisitive of the humans and playful with each other (much to the jealousy of the students on the boat). At one point, the students scored great video of them riding the bow! After about 25 minutes, the group of dolphins left the humans behind so we climbed back on the boat and headed for home, thrilled with our day.
Once back at the dock, Mathew and Garion rode their bikes to a nearby high school to sit in on a town hall meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the creation of a Marine Protected Area in Bimini. Roughly fifty people showed up, including Captain Al, and it was an incredible cultural experience for the VFEPs. Bimini is an incredibly beautiful place, it hosts a vast range of wildlife, and it deserves to be protected. With their first dolphin swim under their belts, Mathew and Garion ate their celebratory mac n’ cheese, as they promised that they would save it for the day that they first saw dolphins. Mac n’ cheese has reportedly never tasted so good!
Garion, Mathew, Nicole & Kel