Day 22 (8th September 2017): We had two launches scheduled today: the group on the early launch were the staying at the Gala Gala Resort and had already been on a trip the day before. During their first launch, while they didn’t have any luck finding any bottlenose dolphins, they were still greeted by the beautiful sight of humpback whales tail slapping, pec waving and breaching! Today they were hoping, with fingers crossed, that they would find some dolphins.
Since the group were already briefed, we watched the beautiful sunrise at the launch site while waiting for the boat to be prepared. Once all was set, we did our usual thing and pushed the boat into the sea. Not long after our trip had started we noticed an accumulation of mist along the coastline; it did not take long until all around us there was nothing but mist and the sunshine was barely visible, leaving a sort of a surreal and haunting feeling from the chilly air.
Regrettably due to the poor viewing weather conditions, not a single dolphin or whale was sighted. Tomorrow was this group’s last trip and they could only hope to get have one last opportunity to see the dolphins before they left.
By the time Angie (founder of Dolphin Encountours), Mitch (the skipper) and I were ready for the second launch of the day, the weather had clear up. Compared to the early morning trip, sightings this afternoon were much better as we saw a pod of 30-40 spinner dolphins offshore, bow riding next to us. Words cannot describe how magical they looked underneath the sea’s surface. At this moment (though it wasn’t the first) I silently wished I owned a GoPro to capture the moment. The trip also saw humpback whales tail-slapping, pec-waving and breaching.
For the rest of the afternoon I conducted the usual land-based survey. Over the past few days I have noticed less whale activity in comparison to the first two weeks since I began volunteering here in Ponta. It did however may it easier for me to record the data as I was working independently this time.
Day 23 (9th September 2017): Two launches scheduled today, including the last launch for the group from the Gala Gala Resort. Angie had received a report of bottlenose dolphins sighted the day before, chances of catching up with them should be good if we headed to the same, or close to, area that the dolphins were lasted.
This turned out to be a good choice!
A pod of at least 25 dolphins were surfing, breaching, swimming in circles, and undertaking all kinds of social interactions. An excellent swim of 20 minutes was more than enough to leave this group with a breath-taking experience.
As for the group in the second launch, well we were surrounded by tail slapping and pec-waving from humpback whales. We also noted that at least two of the pods counted consisted of the following formation: a mother, her calf, and a male escort. The majority of whales were heading north, but some were heading south (towards South Africa and Antarctica). Three male bottlenose dolphins were also sighted later on during the trip, but since they were travel-resting, the swim was cut short to let the dolphins continue with rest without any further disturbance. After the trip was over, I headed back to the lodge and I looked through the photos I had taken of the humpbacks whale flukes and dorsal fins, picking out any decent shots and saving them to a flash drive. These I will then pass onto Angie, who will use them for ID and research.
Day 24 (10th September 2017): I have to say this particular day was quite unique, despite not swimming with the bottlenose dolphins. And I will tell you why.
Although there was no groups of dolphins to swim with, we were still dropped into the clear blue deep sea, in a depth of around 50 meters where we were circled by jellyfish while clinging to the ropes of the boat. Later we saw a couple of humpback whales, resting, stationary, meaning they were not in a rush to migrate, and were just hanging around. Mitch stopped the boat, Angie looked at them and then had a thought: what if we just get into the water, cling to the boat’s ropes and see if the whales pass deep under the boat?
A sudden revelation indeed! This sounded unbelievable to my ears and to everyone else’s!
While waiting you could clear hear the loud sounds the humpbacks were making, with their moaning and purring. I was near the front of the boat, close to its bow and I wasn’t able to see the whales, but I did hear their magical sounds. As the whales approached it seemed they swan under the stern of the boat, and a few of the guests even managed to seem them! The two whales soon departed and we hopping back into the bat, recalling those wonderful few minutes, reminiscing about the sounds and sights almost as if it had happened long ago.
The second drop was with a group of spinner dolphins. It was a huge pod (I thought I counted at least 60, but Mitch told us there were hundreds of them. Many were bow riding and a few jumped, showing off their acrobatic skills. We caught up with the same pod later when we did our third drop-in.
So let’s talk about the spinners; smaller when compared to bottlenose dolphins, they have different shades of grey on their bodies, with a light grey line along the side and are slender, ideal for fast travelling offshore. Looking down into the depths we saw several individuals swimming underneath us, in somewhat a leisurely way. Who knows what the rest of the spinners were doing. Again we were in the water for only a few minutes before departing once more.
The third drop into the water was also with a couple of humpback whales; and this time I was able to see them! Not only did everyone get the chance to see the whales, we saw them approach twice underneath us, seeming to satisfying their curiosity before travelling away. We were all floored by this incredible, magical moment.