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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sleek, agile, rolling and swerving on the border

It started with a normal early morning breakfast before heading off on the 'Bardan' with Captain Faridhi and Sergi the marine research supervisor. We started out heading towards Kisite Marine Park in search of dolphins. On the way, we documented the usual traps, fishing boats and tourist dhows in and around the park. The occasional turtle popped up to breathe and have a peek at us passing, be documented and dive down. But there were no dolphins.

Then it was time for a quick dip and a snorkel, getting pretty close to a hawksbill turtle, then back on the boat. Though still no dolphins.

Continuing on with the dedicated searching and it was time for some changes. Faridhi was posted on search at the bow of Bardan and Sergi took over driving for a while. A matter of minutes later, looking towards the horizon, Faridhi calls, "I see something jumping, about 1000m out there!" First... Disbelief... Can Faridhi really see that far? Second... Realisation... Couldn't be a Bottlenose Dolphin, could it be the rarely seen, deeper water, Spinner Dolphins?

Everyone's on the lookout to confirm the sighting and figure out where the dolphins are going. Luckily for us the ocean is calm as ever and we can try to catch them. Then; sighting confirmed, we all see something jumping way out there, only 500m ahead now! 

We gradually get closer and catch the pod. they are spread out on both sides of the boat. Which way do we look? Which way to point the cameras? We have to get this filmed or no-one will believe us! 

Faridhi is back to being Captain and in charge of keeping us close to the Spinner Dolphins. This is not easy as we don't know which group to follow! We can see them spread across almost 500m and heading towards Tanzania. There are five of us at the front of the boat, all with cameras at the ready. Still have to balance the boat though or we could be in trouble. The dolphins are on the left, then on the right. AH! Jumping! Did you get that? No, too quick, come on jump again! 

It is time to change to video and try our chances with that, while the others keep trying for good photos. Now where are the dolphins? They dived... Wait a minute; they'll be back, but where? Getting some nice video of the calm seas, but no dolphins... Wait under the boat! They found us! Bow riding in front! So close, so amazing! We can see the three colour strips that identify them as Spinners and their smaller size than the Bottlenose Dolphin is now obvious. They are so sleek and agile, rolling and swerving right in front of us. Maybe studying us just as much as we are studying them. Still has anyone got a good picture? 

Not much time left, getting too close to the Tanzania border. The dolphins don't need a passport and visa to cross, but we do! Quick! They are jumping, that way! Video on, pictures snapping, I think we've got it; they are getting too far away now. It is time to head for home, see if we can spot some Bottlenose Dolphins on the way. Then to break the news that WE SAW SPINNER DOLPHINS!

What an Extraordinary Day!

Carla Young – Volunteer with GVI Shimoni, Kenya