Tuesday was a busy day!! Soon after breakfast, we headed to Radio Beach for UNBSJ’s annual beach clean-up. We were grateful for this opportunity to give back to the island that has been so welcoming (and, unfortunately, on which we are leaving lots of trash). We collected a lot of garbage, separating what little can be recycled here. Back inside, we brought our week full circle with a discussion on ecotourism. It’s a tricky thing to define and even trickier to enforce – but people can gain so much by experience the environment and its wildlife when they travel, that we hope sustainable programs continue to grow throughout the world. Though our discussion was brief, we saw quite easily how challenging it is to come up with guidelines that are biologically relevant, allow for a successful business and are enforceable.
After lunch, we had to play a guessing game with some rainy weather but we did eventually make it out on the boat about an hour later than our usual departure. Only 40 minutes into our search we came across a group of 4 spotted dolphins. We soon realized that three were the same individuals we had seen on Friday–Leslie (#80), #99 and a calf! A few minutes after spotting them, each half of our group was able to take turns getting in the water with Leslie and #99 to make underwater observations! This encounter lasted about 30 minutes before the dolphins decided to swim away from us. At this point, we all piled back on the boat to continue our search.
Now wet, the wind was making the day feel rather chilly. We were grateful that after only 3 minutes we came across another group of spotted dolphins and excited at the chance to get back in the warm water. At first we believed there to be only 4 dolphins. Suddenly the group grew to 6, then 10, then 18! We were surrounded by dolphins! This group included the two dolphins with whom we had already been in the water (Leslie (#80) and #99) but now we also saw Noodle (#94) and Tina (#14) with one adult and many calves and juveniles.
After about 10 minutes of surface observations, the first half of our group was again able to gear up to get into the water. Each half of our group was able to have 2 turns during this encounter–we were with these dolphins for over an hour! While under water, we observed many behaviors that we have been discussing during our lectures including pectoral fin touching, bubble streams, whistles and sargassum (sea weed) play. We were fortunate to document what we saw with thousands of still images! DCP will have to spend quite a bit of time reviewing our photos so they can identify the other dolphins that were in the group!
Once we boarded the boat once again we began our return trip to the harbor. Within only 10 minutes we came across a group of 6 spotted dolphins. It seems that this was a portion of the group we had been swimming with because we did notice Noodle (#94) riding the bow wake. Ten minutes later we suddenly had an additional 8 dolphins swimming with our boat for a total of 14. In this group we observed porpoising behavior (i.e. leaping out of the water traveling) as well as upside-down bow-riding–perhaps the dolphins were trying to get a look at those of us on the bow! This group of dolphins showed us the clearest example of their fission-fusion societal structure; one moment there were 14 dolphins, the next only 6, then these 6 became a different 6 and suddenly there were only 3 swimming along with the boat. About 20 minutes after we had come across this final group of dolphins they finally decided to say goodbye.
We are so grateful to have had the chance to experience such an incredible boat trip! We were not sure we would ever be this fortunate what with the seasickness and the bad weather. And we topped the great day off with a round of photo-ID work, sorting through some of Friday’s spotted dolphin photographs, another group BBQ and then a night out at Sherry’s Beach Bar — what an amazing going-away present for our last day on the island!
Until next year,
Bimini Babes (& Hunks), UNBSJ 2015