Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A warm welcome from underwater friends

Reporting big news from Mkwiro today, as we not only saw some dolphins today, but the sighting came uncharacteristically by one of the volunteers... none other than yours truly! You’ll soon understand after arriving on the island that nobody beats Shafii at sighting dolphins. Shafii, as you’ve no doubt heard about before, is our legendary boat captain and has been reported on many occasions to point out dolphins with his eyes closed by simply pointing a finger and announcing “Over there.”

-- Four adults and one juvenile humpback dolphins --

Returning to the story, we had big plans for the day, planning on making a run for the ‘best’ transect (T9) while the tide was low. When we woke up for our 6:30 breaky, however, the weather wasn’t looking overly promising, and people were already cursing our bad luck. Not too dissuaded, we rallied as a group and loaded up Bardan, our trusty wooden sea craft. The weather, still proving to be a nuisance, denies a direct path to the holy grail of transects, so we take a tour through the channel to wait out the storm.

As we backtrack away from our goal, hugging to mainland coast, I catch my first sight of the dolphins. Not actually recognizing them as dolphins, however, I stare a bit more before calling out to the group. Everyone jumps into action, grabbing forms and rushing to pull out cameras previously sealed in waterproof bags. By the time were all ready, we have no idea where the dolphins are. Luckily, being mammals, we know they have to surface for air at some point, so we wait and watch. Sure enough, they pop up briefly from their foraging, and we all get our first good looks at the group of humpback dolphins. Amid the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of the girls, camera shutters fire away in rapid procession, attempting to get the best shot for photo ID later. By the end of the sighting, we all agree there are 5 dolphins ­ 4 adults and 1 juvenile still tagging along close to Mom. Needless to say, the group moral is at an all time high for the trip, but T9 still beckons.

-- Tail dive of the foraging dolphin --

We gather all the speed the 15 horsepower motor on Bardan can muster and break out of the channel into open waters. The swells are high, the splashes large and wet, but Shafii maintains the heading towards the Kisite Marine Park where our reefs await. The winds aren’t giving up easily though. The rough seas and the lost time prove too much, making T9 impossible to swim for the day. T4 and T7, excellent in their own rights, serve as the consolation prize. Unlike a lousy ribbon, though, they doll out a brief green turtle sighting each, as well as a wide variety of fish, and T7 even yields an eel just for good measure.

-- Blackspot puffa fish --

The highlight for the snorkelers was in T7, however, when John dove deep to investigate a fish Id spotted under some coral. As he gets close, the fish starts to move some fins, obviously aware of the bright­blue­masked intruder coming for a closer look. As John gets within reach (invading the fish’s bubble zone, pun!), the once flat yellow fish balloons into a sphere of spines! A puffer fish! We break to the surface and share a laugh over the little guy as he swims away, still slightly puffed up due to his close encounter. Returning to the boat, we eat lunch on the ocean then head back to base under the finally present sun. A beautiful end to an eventful day ­ T9 will have to wait until next week.