If the first trip of the week is any indicator of how the rest of the week’s dolphin trips will go…then we may be headed into a phenomenal week. Sunday’s trip kicked off the initial tour for this week’s Sea Crest group, and it was quite the experience on the water. Before we could even get out of the channel, exactly ten minutes after leaving the marina, we intercepted four, very large bottlenose dolphins, who to our amazement, decided they were in the mood to bowride our vessel, giving all of us a little unexpected thrill. After that brief, and somewhat unusual sighting, the guests, crew, and DCP researchers were all excited for the rest of the trip, and we didn’t let the storm clouds and squalls in the distance dampen our spirit for the day’s adventure.
After making our way through some of the darker storm clouds unscathed, Captain Al decided to stop for a quick swim break and gear check, allowing the new group to get their bearings and do a practice run before the real deal dolphin encounters began for them. It’s important that everyone aboard knows what will be expected of them during these trips, and that they are comfortable getting in and out of the water with masks, fins, snorkels and cameras. These gear checks are a crucial component and give everyone a chance to work out any kinks they make have with the boat procedures. Safety first! After that, we continued heading north for another hour until we spotted a group of three juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins, who were all too happy to stick around just long enough for us to document them on the surface, and for the guests to attempt getting in the water for their first encounter. Two more juveniles joined in, for a total of five dolphins in the area when the group entered the water. Unfortunately, this group of dolphins was more interested in feeding on (or just chasing?) nearby fish, and left us without looking back.
However, we soon caught up to them again, and this time they were joined by two adult dolphins, who we suspect are originally from the northern Bahamas. With a group size of seven at this point, we once again eagerly got in the water. Much to everyone’s delight, these dolphins were incredibly interested in us, and this was arguably one of the best encounters of the season. The dolphins, possibly far more than seven, were weaving in between the guests in the water, checking out each individual, with each dolphin doing several laps throughout the group, giving everyone both in the water and watching from the boat-an incredible experience. At one point, from the boat, we noticed the younger dolphins fast swimming away. From Kel’s underwater perspective, she able to tell us that the dolphins weren’t swimming away from anything; they were swimming toward a hammerhead shark! The large sharks cruised past, seeming to give no thought to the young dolphins checking it out. Soon after, Kel also saw a barracuda and an ocean triggerfish. There was also a young yellow jack in the dolphins’ midst and the dolphins were, at times, quite busy chasing the poor thing all about! We observed the dolphins for 34 minutes, and in the end, we had to leave them in order to head back home, to ensure we made it back to the marina before nightfall. Ironically, the moment we stopped looking for dolphins and began heading home, we were spotting dolphins in the distance, left and right. Journeying back to the marina, while the sun was setting beautifully, was just a picture perfect end to a phenomenal day, and we cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us! Hopefully we’ll all be spoiled yet again…
Kel and the Trio, (Patrick, Tori, & Kaiya) signing off.