Thursday had feelings of excitement and sadness over our final full day in Bimini. After breakfast, we headed to a nearby clinic for our scheduled COVID tests, which are required to get back into the US by plane. But, a neighbor popped his out and told us the nurse was flying in from Nassau and the flight was delayed. He nicely texted her for us and we rescheduled for noon. We’re learning the island speed….when things don’t work out on the first try, you just relax and remember it will work out eventually. Brie & Sophia went to the Straw Market to get some braids in their hair. We all had such nice conversations with the shop keepers, who today called out, “Oh, the girls are back!” when we returned.
For our class session, we revisited the topic of ecotourism – how our impressions have changed, how The International Ecotourism Society defines it, reviewing the literature, and discussing how our study abroad experience fits in. Dr. Yeater joined us by Zoom, challenging us to think back to our readings. Next, it was COVID Test Do-Over and this time we were successful! And, the clinic A/C was nice and cool. With negative tests under our belts, we headed back for lunch and then the boat.
We met our crew member for the day, Brendan, and headed to 3 Sisters for a snorkel. On the way, we saw a disturbance at the surface of the water that didn’t seem like dolphins, but our curiosity sent us to investigate. It was a small shark, swimming at the surface, perhaps feeding! Once we arrived at 3 Sisters, we snorkeled the biggest sister (who reminded us of the biggest dolphin in the young trio earlier in the week), noting a large barracuda and many schools of fish. We watched as the fish used rock ledges for habitat, sometimes moving in and out of small openings. It was a long swim back to the boat and we had to swim into the current, but we made it! And, we were rewarded with a jumping session off the boat.
The seas were so flat and eventually we could see dolphins in the distance. As we headed that way, a lone (that we could see) bottlenose zipped past the bow. Once we reached the dolphins, we saw there were 14 spotteds. Under water, it was another new experience: this time, the dolphins were staying in a group with each other, more focused on themselves than us. They were very interactive with each other, with lots of contact, mating, and vocalizations we had not heard before. They were blowing bubbles (it was fun to swim through the bubbles afterwards!) and it reminded us of young kids wrestling. We had two separate swims with this group; the second swim, the dolphins seem more interested in us. Kel and Nicole noticed Prince William (#64), Tim (#69), Speedy (#78), Paul (#99) and IDs #111, #120, and WSR012. It’s possible that #117 was there as well. (Note: these ID #s were all assigned in previous years, under approved research permits to DCP.) We all learned how to recognize Prince William and on the second swim we were able to find him among the dolphin group ourselves! It was exciting being able to see so many different individuals who we had heard stories of all week long.
We climbed aboard the boat, after the two great swims, and we watched them a bit longer from the boat. Sophia had just said she wanted to see a dolphin leap: and one did!! We also noticed a bottlenose (the same from earlier?) had joined the group. It seemed like it was trying to interact with the spotteds but was more on the periphery. As we were leaving, two juveniles rode the bow of the boat; as they each left the boat, they headed in the same direction, back to the main group. Interesting how only the juveniles rode the bow….hmmm…
For dinner we tried Edith’s pizza (Bimini bread dough!) and cracked conch. It was delicious! For dessert, we were able to sample coconut rolls and guava cream cheese rolls from Nate’s bakery. And, back at the room, we had a low-key trivia night, filled with dolphin species, ID#s, and island facts.
Friday morning, we headed to Radio Beach for a casual beach clean-up. It was infuriating but also empowering, knowing we were making a difference one piece of trash at a time. There were to-go food containers, Styrofoam, and so many plastic straws. There was also a perfectly good life jacket floating, so we snagged that and hopefully it will get a second chance at use. Brie, Abby, and Sophia hopped in for one last swim; we were the only ones in the water, but we were trendsetters and others soon followed. Next up, we somberly packed and met up to write this journal entry!
We learned and experienced a lot on this once in a lifetime adventure. It exceeded any and all expectations. We hope more SHU students can experience this program. These Galphins will be back!
The Final Five (SHU 2022)