Wanderer Bracelets, based in Florida, creates a reliable source of income for incredibly talented Balinese. Each bracelet serves as reminders to embrace what you value most - the people and the places you encounter on the path of life.
Now, Wanderer has teamed up with DCP for their dolphin bracelet: 10% of sales are donated to DCP. Get yours today!
Poppy McVie (DCP ID#112) is a juvenile, female Atlantic spotted dolphin. We've been observing Poppy off Bimini, The Bahamas since 2015 as she swims along with friends like Paul (#99), Tina (#14), and Lil' Jess (#35). She has just received her name from DCP supporter Kimberli A. Bindschatel in honor of her literary character, Poppy McVie. You can be among the first to adopt Poppy - click here!
And, check out Kimberli’s upcoming book, Operation Dolphin Spirit: A Poppy McVie Adventure, inspired by the dolphins of Bimini!
Download your copy today!
This issue is filled - and we mean filled - with updates from the field: Bimini, Roatan and the Amazon! We've got a lot of data processing ahead of us! Also check out news from Wanderer Bracelets and meet our newest Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin, Poppy McVie!
Shortly after breakfast on Thursday morning, Kel and the DCP guests met for a discussion on ecotourism. Kel was able to share the voluntary Code of Conduct that Bimini Adventures, Captain Al’s ecotour company, and the other consistent dolphin ecotour group operating out of Bimini agreed upon to define the appropriate way of observing the dolphins around Bimini. (Click here to see the guidelines yourself.) Generally, the document describes when it is appropriate to observe dolphins, it defines resting and foraging behavior (which are the times it is always inappropriate to follow the dolphins) and provides the best practices for driving boats and swimming with the dolphins (e.g. drive slowly, no sharp turns; do not touch, feed, or chase). The conversation with the guests also delved into the importance of hiring local people as much as possible and trying to minimize any impact on the environment while on vacation. It was a great discussion and it was nice to hear everyone’s opinions, especially given the diverse backgrounds of the guests.
In the afternoon, after our last lovely lunch of the week, we departed the dock at 1400 with every intention of first stopping to snorkel at Bimini Road before searching for dolphins. Those clever dolphins had other plans for us, though! Less than 15 minutes into our journey, we came across a large group of foraging bottlenose dolphins. Crater-feeding is the one foraging behavior we are able to observe off Bimini, and over the years DCP has not detected any behavior indicating that our presence disturbs the bottlenose when they are feeding in this manner. This group was very cooperative, permitting Kel and the guests to observe them underwater, as well as surfacing plenty of times for Nicole to collect surface photos. Upon returning to the boat, the guests were marveling at the crater-feeding foraging technique the dolphins were using. They really dig into the sand with their rostra, which must mean the treats their fishing out are yummy because the sand here is rough!
Eventually, it was time to leave the dolphins to their feeding, so we resumed our course to Bimini Road. As we approached, however, Captain Kat noticed that a squall to the East was approaching and might cross right over our planned snorkeling destination. To avoid it, we instead searched for dolphins for a while, allowing the squall to move off. We did eventually end up back at Bimini Road and the guests were able to enjoy seeing many different species of fish and invertebrates, including lots of sergeant majors, stoplight parrot fish, and angelfishes!
Once everyone was satisfied with their observations and back on the boat, we set off to look for dolphins once again. Though the squall never actually reached us, it left lots of wind which made the ride a bit bumpy. We had no luck finding spotted dolphins in the “usual” areas, but as we headed back towards home, Captain Kat made sure to pass through the area where we had seen the bottlenose earlier in the afternoon. Sure enough, they were still there! While we didn’t see as many of them as the first time, the ones we saw were definitely some of the same individuals. They must have found a really “juicy” spot for foraging! We snapped some more surface photos of this group and then continued toward the harbor. The bottlenose “waved” us off with their flukes—a wonderful end to a great week for our guests. And a nice way of ending the DCP Bimini field season. We’re already looking forward to sharing with you our adventures with the Bimini dolphins again next year!
Until next time,
Nicole & Kel
After breakfast on Wednesday morning, Kel, Nicole, and the DCP guests headed to Radio Beach to collect garbage and recycling. It was a lovely day, but we were fortunate that the clouds gave us a break from the blazing sun while everyone worked hard to pick up as much trash as they could. If it had been a bit cooler, we would have kept working all morning! But as you can see in the photo above, we were very effective in under an hour. Once we had rinsed the sand off and had some water, we re-grouped for Kel’s presentation and discussion about photo-identification and the dolphins of Bimini.
The boat departed from the Sea Crest Marina at 1500, just after the wind had picked up. The morning had been so calm we were hoping we’d have a smooth ride all day, but squalls to the West created quite a blustery afternoon. The waves and wind didn’t prevent us from finding a group of spotted dolphins early into the trip, though! Captain Al spotted a group of what turned out to be eight dolphins, including Niecey (#48), Sulphur (#102), un-named #107, and possibly Cerra (#38). The dolphins were riding the swells and waves and seemed to be quite social. After about 30 minutes of surface observations, we tried a couple of underwater encounters. Though the surf-play was slower than previous days, the dolphins weren’t really staying in the same spot, so the swimmers only had brief views of a couple of young dolphins as they cruised by. We continued observing a lingering group of three young dolphins, still including Sulphur and possibly newly-named #110 (stayed next month to learn her name!). The juveniles were riding the waves and then the bow, giving the guests a great show.
Over an hour after finding this group, we finally lost sight of the remaining dolphins and continued on our way. Soon, Captain Al saw more dolphins leaping in the distance! As we approached the spot, we were surprised by a group of 10 dolphins from the East. From the bow, Kel recognized Inka (#93) and Vee (#101). Strangely, we only saw these dolphins for just over five minutes before we lost sight of them abruptly. It’s possible they were engaged in social behavior below the surface as we moved off from them. At any rate, we continued our search, but to no avail. By the time we were close to the island again, the wind had calmed significantly, but that didn’t help us spot any more dolphins on our way back to the harbor.
Back at the dock, everyone was pleased and smiling about the dolphin adventure of the day. A great dinner and long conversation later, we all headed to bed to re-energize for the group’s last day on the island. We can’t wait to make the most of it!
Nicole & Kel
Tuesday morning also began nice and early—our guests want to make the most of the days they have here on Bimini! A bit later in the morning, a small group set off with Mr. “Bonefish” Ebbie to explore the Healing Hole. On East Bimini, the area made up of mangroves, there are elaborate creeks and tunnels naturally formed in the forest. On the outgoing tide, cold water flows out of these creeks and brings with it lots of minerals, which some people believe to have healing powers. Whatever you believe, this adventure into the mangroves was beautiful, and an amazing side of Bimini that visitors rarely see. And on our way back to the dock, we saw lots of Southern stingrays, lemon sharks and nurse sharks, reminding us of the importance of the mangroves which serve as nurseries for many species.
After a lovely lunch, we set off on the boat at 1500. Less than an hour into our search, we saw dolphins leaping a bit to the North! As we approached, the dolphins came towards the boat and we were able to see that they were Atlantic spotted dolphins—a group of three including Inka (#93) and Vee (#101), along with another juvenile that Kel and Nicole didn’t recognize from the boat. These dolphins were riding the waves, but relatively more slowly than groups we’ve seen earlier in the week. They seemed like they might stick around with human swimmers, so we decided to try underwater observations. Just as we were about to put people in the water, everything was suddenly a bit chaotic. The wind picked up, another pair of spotted dolphins joined the original three (including one adult that Kel recognized from previous trips, but that isn’t in the DCP catalog, and possibly Milo (#96)), another dolphin-swim vessel was getting close to the North, and the dolphins started picking up speed. All of these things combined meant that our guests were only able to have a brief view before the dolphins moved off.
Once everyone was on the boat, we located the original three once more. The other dolphin-swim vessel was off looking for another group of dolphins, and they quickly found a group of eight to the North. As we continued following the three, including Vee and Inka who were both playing with sargassum, we realized that this group was likely going to join the other eight. We didn’t want to overwhelm the dolphins or the humans, so we moved off to observe from afar. After about half an hour, as we were starting to search for more dolphins, the other vessel decided to head back to the harbor. They kindly let us know that the big group of 11 was heading our way, so we kept our heads up and looking in that direction. Sure enough, there were suddenly lots of dolphins around, including SplitJaw (#22), Inka (#93), Swoosh (#36), Tim (#69), and possibly Prince William (#64) and Milo (#96)! We attempted a few underwater observations of this group, but the dolphins had another agenda—they were riding the waves, socializing, and playing, much too quickly for the humans to keep up. We decided to leave them to it and started making our way back to the harbor. Two young dolphins joined us on the bow, but we soon lost sight of the whole group.
Just 20 minutes later, we were surprised by a couple of young spotteds leaping towards us from the West! It was getting quite late, so the Captains asked that we try an underwater observation right away, instead of collecting data from the boat for too long—for everyone’s safety, we want to be sure we make it back to the dock before it gets dark. And good thing we heeded their request—this was the longest encounter of the day! The group of 11 included Romeo (#10) with her calf, Lil’ Jess (#35), Stefran (#82) with her calf, un-named #75, and Kel thinks she spotted Cerra (#38). These dolphins were very curious about the humans at first, following the free-divers down (and bumping Nicole in the head on her way back to the surface!) After investigating us for a minute or two, they continued with their interactions, swimming at a relatively slow pace so we were able to collect lots of photos and video! When we piled back on the boat, everyone had huge smiles and lots to share!
We made it back to the dock rather later than usual, but as happy as ever. Another delicious dinner was accompanied by animated conversation, about the day’s events as well as many other subjects. With two days left, we can’t wait to see what new adventures await!
Kel & Nicole
The group started with breakfast nice and early on Monday, so a couple of people would be able to go for a morning dive. The rest of us chatted for a bit before the first session of the day, an introduction to DCP and the research we do. Nicole presented the slideshow describing DCP’s origins, our field sites, the dolphins studied here off Bimini, and our research methods. The guests had some really interesting questions. Kel and Nicole had a great time sharing their knowledge with the group.
After lunch, the boat departed a bit earlier, at 1400, because we would be stopping for a bit of snorkeling before our search for dolphins. The dolphins clearly didn’t know our plans, though—only a few minutes into our trip we came across a group of foraging bottlenose dolphins! This group of at least five was surfacing pretty regularly so we were able to get lots of surface photos, but they were spread pretty far apart, so we decided not to try underwater observations. Instead, we headed to Three Sister Rocks for our snorkel stop.
The true search for dolphins started as we left Three Sisters…and continued….and continued…for two hours! Fortunately, the wind was much calmer than yesterday, making the survey much more enjoyable. Finally, we came across a group of 22 Atlantic spotted dolphins! From the boat we were able to identify Romeo (#10) with her calf, Tina (#14) with her calf, Lil’ Jess (#35) who we only saw briefly, and Stefran (#82). This group was splitting apart and coming together, riding the waves and socializing. The captains thought we might give an encounter a try and after one failed attempt (the dolphins are just so unpredictable) we were able to observe Tina with three juveniles. They followed Kel for a bit so DCP was able to collect some good video data of their interactions. Eventually, they swam off more quickly than we could keep up, so we got back on the boat. A few minutes later, we caught up to a larger group and tried another encounter. This time we saw Tina again, but we also identified Niecey (#48) and un-named #75 and #114. Hopefully we will be able to identify more of the group once we review stills and video.
As it was still relatively early, we kept our eyes peeled for more dolphins on our way home, and we were not disappointed! We came across another group of foraging bottlenose dolphins—possibly even some of the same individuals from earlier in the day (we’ll have to check our surface photos!) This time, they appeared to be a bit more cohesive, surfacing in a group and spending some time at the surface, so Kel got in the water to test it out. The dolphins appeared to return to about the same spot, so a few guests joined Kel for an encounter. They did get a pretty good view of the group of bottlenose as they came up for a breath. After a few minutes of observations, everyone was back on board and we were heading back to the dock.
After dinner and some more captivating conversation, most everyone headed to bed early. Tomorrow is another adventure-packed day, so we need to get some rest in order to be ready for whatever comes our way.
Until next time,
Kel & Nicole
Sunday morning was a busy one for everybody. DCP was preparing to welcome the guests for their first day on Bimini, the guests were dealing with the airlines and ferries, the Sea Crest staff was hard at work getting the hotel ready for everyone. The majority of the group was on-island and ready for our first meeting at noon, when DCP made introductions and gave everyone the “house-keeping” chat. As the last few guests made their way to the hotel from their various modes of transportation, we all shared a lovely lunch and continued getting to know each other. This is a very diverse international group, with people traveling from Colorado, Illinois, Hawaii, Virginia, Switzerland, the UK, and Turkey! Everyone was already getting along splendidly, only five minutes after meeting. It’s going to be a wonderful week!
At 1445 the group was all on the dock, ready to have their boat introduction and begin their first dolphin trip at 1500. As it was day one, this trip began with a gear check, which was also a nice excuse for everyone to enjoy the beautiful Bahamian waters. Shortly after getting back on the boat, we spotted a small group of bottlenose dolphins. This group of three was pretty elusive, diving down and surfacing only periodically. Kel snapped some surface photos so we can try to identify the individuals back at the office, and then we continued on our search. We searched and searched, and the waves got bigger the farther we went. We were really rocking when we finally found more dolphins. Actually, the dolphins really found us. The crew all thought it was another group of bottlenose at first but those sneaky dolphins turned out to be three Atlantic spotted dolphins. They were all a little bit older and neither Kel nor Nicole recognized any from the DCP Bimini catalog, so we suspect they are the northern transplants. We watched the group as they surfed the waves and played with seaweed, and then the Captains suggested we give an encounter a try. We only saw the group briefly underwater, but Nicole was able to capture some still images that will hopefully help us figure out who the individuals were.
We lost sight of this group as everyone piled back on the boat, mostly because the waves made it very distracting—everyone was struggling to stand straight and stuff was rolling around. Luckily, things began to calm down as we made our way back toward the island. About 45 minutes after losing sight of the last group, we came across another small group of spotted dolphins. This time we definitely recognized someone—Romeo (#10) was there with a calf, along with another mother-calf pair. These dolphins were also riding the waves and covering a lot of area while doing so. The second mother had a pretty small calf and seemed to be keeping it a little farther from the boat, which is why we never really got a good look at the adult. Nevertheless, we attempted underwater observations, which resulted in a quick swim-by. Meanwhile, the crew on the boat was keeping an eye on another group of dolphins—as the swimmers got a glance at the spotted, a group of at least four bottlenose dolphins swam in front of the boat and soon disappeared.
With everyone onboard, we still had a little time to check for more dolphins on our way home. We didn’t find any, but everyone was quite pleased with what we had been able to observe. Back on land, we gathered for dinner and shared some wonderful and intriguing conversations on many subjects—just the start of what promises to be a fascinating week. Soon it was time for bed, and time to dream about what we might find tomorrow.
Kel & Nicole
Thursday began with some office work and a bit of rain. As we were getting on the boat, the skies were covered in clouds, but by the time we reached the snorkel stop at Three Sister Rocks the sun had come out, revealing a beautiful day and impressive water clarity. The guests enjoyed seeing the differences between this snorkel stop and yesterday’s at Bimini Road. After about forty minutes soaking in the beauty, we began our dolphin search.
The water was nearly flat-calm with just a light breeze keeping us cool and creating gentle ripples. One would imagine it would be nearly impossible to miss any dolphins swimming past. It took nearly an hour, though, before Captain Audley spotted something far away. As we approached, Captain Audley and Nicole realized we were likely approaching foraging bottlenose dolphins. Sure enough, when we got to the (very deep) spot there was a group of at least eight bottlenose. They were so spread out and spent so much time underwater, it was really hard to be sure of a group count. The water was so clear that you could really see the dolphins as they scanned the sea floor—it was fascinating! Since the group was so spread out, we opted not to try underwater observations. Once Nicole had gotten some good surface photos, we headed back to our normal course to look for more.
In less than 20 minutes, we did find more! More bottlenose dolphins, that is. This group of at least five was also foraging, but they were covering less ground, so Captain Al thought we could give a swim a try. After advising us not to intrude on the dolphins’ foraging (no free-diving), Captain Al gave the all-clear for us to slide in. Crater feeding, the foraging technique we observe with bottlenose dolphins most often around Bimini, is fascinating to observe. Nicole was able to get some good underwater video that will hopefully be helpful to DCP’s current project investigating the details of this feeding method. About 20 minutes of good observations later, the dolphins swam a bit too far out of our view, so we decided to head back to the boat.
By this time it was getting late, so we began our return to the harbor. And it was lucky we did—we soon came across a group of spotted dolphins! As we approached, four spotteds zoomed over to swim in the bow wake. Leaning over the bow, Julie saw SplitJaw (#22) and Nicole recognized Prince William (#64)! Given the time, we let the dolphins ride the bow for a few minutes but then decided it would be best to try an encounter. Once underwater, we realized that it was actually eight spotted dolphins—along with SplitJaw and Prince William, Nicole saw Milo (#96) and Speedy (#78). There was also a mother-calf pair and a couple of adults who we will hopefully ID once we review the data. This group was great—they showed little interest in the humans but stuck close enough that we could observe their interactions. There was a lot of socio-sexual behavior, sometimes all directed at one individual. We also saw what looked like minor disputes—a little bit of pushing and jawing. It was a great encounter for the guests as well as for DCP data collection!
Eventually, the dolphins began swimming too quickly for us to keep up, so we climbed back on the boat and began excitedly sharing our experiences. Just as we were becoming complacent and settling in to our seats, we saw someone leaping high in the air! It was a group of spotted dolphins who appeared to be playing, leaping, and chasing fish. As we passed them, four juvenile dolphins, including Paul (#99), split off from chasing fish and joined us on our bow. They played in the pressure wave for a few minutes and then turned and made their way back to where they had started.
This was the last day for this group of Bimini Adventures guests. DCP is grateful for their enthusiasm and interest in the dolphins and our research. What a perfect last day for them, full of dolphin sightings and observations! Next week is DCP’s Eco-tour group—we can’t wait to meet everyone and have another great week of dolphin adventures!
Until next time,
Nicole & Kel