On Thursday, we were once again able to join the Behind the Mask team in their search for dolphins off Bimini. You may have caught their story on Facebook announcing their project here…..drum roll….
They are filming free divers using “Seabob” scooters while swimming with dolphins! It’s been very interesting to watch – sometimes the dolphins are totally in to it, seemingly waiting for another turn while the divers catch their breath. Other times, the dolphins swim off and show no interest. And many times, it’s somewhere in between. It’s been great working with a team that actually cares about how their interactions might be impacting the dolphins – and are actively working to minimize any negative impact. We even discussed, at the end of the day, what average folks who might want to interact with dolphins should do. Ultimately: be respectful. Back off when dolphins are feeding or resting or seem agitated. Don’t touch the dolphins. Don’t feed the dolphins. Do be inspired by them.
We departed the Sea Crest at 11:00 a.m. sharp and headed to South Bimini where the crew was waiting with their gear lined up on the dock. The seas were so flat and there was actually more sunshine than the last two days, so everyone had high hopes for another awesome day. And, the day did not disappoint.
It began with at least 5 bottlenose dolphins, less than one hour into our search. It seemed to be two mom & calf pairs, plus an unknown dolphin in the distance. The dolphins were traveling so after some dorsal photographs we did the same. It wasn’t long before we were with Tina (#14) and her calf. A bit strange for the pair to be on their own, but we soon realized that no dolphins were on their own today! Every time you looked around there were more…
For Nat, it is always such a treat to see spotted dolphins that she hasn’t seen before – and she got to “meet” quite a few. After the first two sightings, we saw a group of over 24 spotted dolphins! Within that group was Inka (#93), SplitJaw (#22), Prince William (#64) and Vee (#101), which was Nat’s first time seeing these dolphins out in the open waters (besides just behind a computer screen): “I love being able to observe the dolphins first hand out in the field, because it helps me memorize and get a better first hand glance at their spot patterns and dorsal fin notches. Now that I was able to see them once, I’m sure I can spot the same dolphins again the next time they swim into view.” While Kel pointed out the different dolphins, including Sulfur (#102), a group of about ten of the spotted dolphins came right up to the bow of the boat searching for a bow ride. The water was so crystal clear and smooth that you could see the dolphins perfectly as they swam around the bow. It was a rare day when we will indeed be able to ID individual spotted dolphins from surface photos (like this one – Vee is at the bottom!) because the sea was just so calm. Eventually it was time to give the dolphins a break and head back to shore! Our day came full circle with our final dolphins of the day: Tina & her calf!
Nat & Kel