The word awesome in modern English is almost always misused. Awe means a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. It is often used for experiences that were pleasurable, entertaining, etc., but rarely full of wonder. Yesterday, my son Owen and I had a truly awesome experience of kayaking with Long-nosed Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris). For a short time, we were in the midst of a pod of 30 or so dolphins, so close that we could hear the blow of air when they surfaced and see the details of skin tone variation and the eponymous long snouts. AWESOME!
Owen and I went over to the adjacent bay in our kayaks to check out a new snorkeling spot. As we were taking the kayaks off the beach preparing to head back to our rental home, I spotted the distinctive fins of the dolphins. They were about 100-150 meters off shore so we paddled out and got right next to them. We spent about 15 minutes with them and then headed back to shore. There must have been over 30 dolphins with a main group and a couple of smaller groups. A few minutes later, two tourist boats came to observe them. They must have spotters on shore or the dolphins regularly come to that area.
Later in the afternoon, I went back out alone with my camera to try to video and photograph them. The footage in this blog post is from me on the kayak, trying to keep my camera dry, paddling after the dolphins and shooting video, so you can see why the footage is not exactly National Geographic standards.
There is a lot of research and information on spinner dolphins online. One study done in Guam, a researcher from the University of Oregon looked at the impact of human activity disturbing the dolphins. Spinner dolphins during the day come to shallow bays to rest. They swim in formations so the members of the pod can turn half their brain off and still be protected from sharks with the plan that at least one will spot the danger and they will be able to react. However, this is the time that they are close to shore and humans often disturb them, such as the tour boats and Owen and me. We didn’t stay long and were not motorized, but studies show that dolphins will move away from highly disturbed spots and/or their rest will be disrupted and they will reproduce less. They go out at night to feed in deeper water. Below is a chart of their daily cycle. Thank you to Robbie McNulty for posting his research paper online free of charge!
What a great day on the bay! I really love kayaking and hope to do more of it during this holiday and in other areas around the world. It is a nice way to be on the water, getting exercise and exploring coastlines. The freedom of putting a kayak into a quiet cove and go for a swim and then move on is exhilarating.
We did see them jump and spin a couple of times. I will see how often they come back to the bay this week.