07 August 2018

The Sensual Dolphin Experience

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Our morning began with a BOOM! It was a dark and stormy morning and mother nature gave us a wake-up call with a thunder alarm. But the rain and storminess were short-lived and the skies cleared to blue from cloudy before we water-taxied to Bailey’s Key for data collection and observations. The dolphins were much more active at the surface this morning than yesterday. We observed lots of play, lots of body and pec slaps and jaw claps. We saw some speed swims and chases. We also had our first official data collection session for our own research projects. It was exciting because we got to pull the reigns (from Neptune … maybe) and apply our protocols for our studies.
We stayed at Baileys this morning to participate in our dolphin encounter and swim. We met Callie and Elli during the encounter, which was much more controlled because we were with a trainer and got to meet the dolphins up-close – to see their eyes, ears, and feel their skin. After the encounter, we did the swim and we heard the dolphins before we saw them. Our perspective underwater was completely different from our vantage during surface observations. Mike thought being in the water gave us an understanding of how large the enclosure was for the dolphins. Alex said the swim really pointed out to her that we were in the dolphins’ home; we were visitors welcomed for a play date. Dr. H was delighted that Tank greeted each one of us! He is a precocious calf.
After our dolphin swim, we had to skedaddle off Baileys to the dive shop to catch the bus over to Maya Key. The streets were narrow and the cities were seemingly underdeveloped. The divide between locals and tourists in terms of structures and buildings was clear. At Maya Key, we visited the animals and Paige observed the monkeys who now call Maya Key home. It was incredible snorkeling with a close drop-off, lots of blue tangs, parrot fish and neat coral. We practiced data collection procedures for Grant and Soledad’s project and learned that Grant and Soledad are the only two who can snorkel a straight line! The Mayan temple replica was neat and showcased several artifacts.
This trip has already pushed a few of us outside our comfort zones: Alex C. felt a bit uncomfortable at the drop-off – she heard the Jaws theme song when she swam near the edge. Gonzalo received a jellyfish sting that was itchy but he persevered!
We wrapped up the afternoon with some paddle-boarding and kayaking back at Anthony’s Key Resort. A bit before dinner, we watched the video data Dr. D collected this morning and had a lively discussion about dolphin behavior and their vocal production.
Tomorrow brings more dolphins and our first night snorkel!
Cheers,
St. Mary’s Snorkelin’ Snakes

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