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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dolphin galore at Pta Gruesa

This Friday it had been a week since we'd been able to go diving - those pesky waves were still rather and imperious, but by the afternoon they had settled down somewhat and we were able to kit up and head out, hoorah!

The first boat out had a super dive but it was the second and third boat-load of divers who really had, for many, the most incredible experience of their lives to date.  We come across a pod of dolphins!  Real live, wild, beautiful, inquisitive, and unforgettable dolphins!

One of the boats decided to forget about the dive (we later decided that we could suffer a week or more of no diving if it meant that we had the dolphin experience!) and just jumped overboard with fins and mask and snorkel.  Some of us had not brought a snorkel with us, which I’m sure we won’t do again, but we were perfectly happy with just coming up for air occasionally. 

There the dolphins were, all around us – we had seen their graceful jumps out of the water from the boat and now we were with them in their element.  Under the water you could hear their distinctive clicking communication, and above the water one of us exclaiming, “WOW!”, or “Over here!” before the face went down again.

The dolphins dove and swam around us all, seeming to enjoy the attention and also be bursting with curiousity as to who we were, these strange creatures that could swim but not dive down to the depths they could.  After passing by us solo, or in twos or threes or even more, they would dive down and continue a balletic performance – swooping and flipping above and below each other and making us go wide-eyed with wonder.

After a while it would seem that Ma and Pa Dolphin would say it was time to go, they really must be going now, and the younger ones would reluctantly follow them away.  However just a few moments later, we would hear the clicking again and they would be back!  They got closer and closer, as close to us as you are to the computer screen you are looking at now.  We would dive underwater and for a few moments feel as if we were one of them.  We could start to see their individual characteristics and personalities – the spotted one, always playful, the gentle nibbles and fin-flaps between one and the other, and so on.

Joel noticed they seemed to like circling you when you were upside down – he spent a lot of time like that with the dolphins right up close, “Checking him out”, as he put it.  Hew shot over a hundred amazing photos, having to put the camera on the macro setting sometimes because of how close they were to him! Here are a few of them for you to see (just imagine being underwater with them!)  Stephen shot an excellent photo of Nick surrounded by dolphins (his future Facebook photo for sure!).

We would do backward and forward rolls in the water and hang upside down and they would flip and dive around us.  We were in the water at least thirty-five minutes and they still weren’t bored of us yet!  We could never tire of them either, and it was only when the light was fading fast that we eventually got back into the boat.  The dolphins weren’t ready for us to leave yet and followed us, jumping out of the water and giving us one last glimpse. 

On the last boat on the way back Cassie and Nicky let out some girly squeaks, while others were lost for words but grinning all over the place!  We all agreed it was very much a dream come true – something you longingly imagine but never think will actually happen.  It was nothing like those places where you pay to swim with very bored tame dolphins – maybe these dolphins had never seen humans before, and to get so close for so long to some of the most beautiful and intelligent creatures on Earth was a privilege and an inspiration.  We shouted out a big “Thank you!” to the dolphins and a “¡Muchas gracias!” for good measure.

When we returned to the base we were floating several feet off the ground, but after some more exclaiming and gratuitous hugging we had to give it a rest and not mention the D-word or Marine Mammals or anything similar for the benefit of the first dolphin-less boat that went out!

An incredible day, never to be forgotten.