Our boat is loaded and Captain Idi is standing tall on the helm. Explorer’s engines are warming up as the crew lift the anchor and stow away the anchor line. We’re about to depart to our favorite dive site… Mnemba Atoll.
Captain Idi navigates his path through the ocean with precision while keeping the boat humming along at a solid 30 knots. I perch myself just in front of him on the bow with a watchful eye on the ocean waiting to catch a glimpse of that familiar spray rising off the water in the distance.
Seeing the dolphins out in the blue behind the barrier reef is always a magical experience but we never intrude on their space in this area. We approach the pod slowly to give the dolphins an opportunity to come play. The bolder ones venture toward the bow, just inches away from the boat ducking and diving with precision while the younger ones trail behind surfing and playing with the wake.
Whenever we see these beautiful creatures we always observe first. There is never a rush to jump in with them. We try to understand their behavior before entering their space. When they are feeding or on the move we let them be. We stay on the boat and allow them to come to us if they choose but when we see them in the shallows of Mnemba they are usually there to play. This is when we get a chance to enter their world. With emphasis on the fact that we are entering THEIR world and that we are there to observe and not disturb the dolphins. Slow movements, minimal splashing and no diving into the center of the group.
With masks and fins on we eagerly wait for Captain Idi to give the signal that we may enter the water. As your head submerges below the warm, clear waters of Mnemba you can hear the high pitched banter of the dolphins as clear as if they were right next to you. When they do not feel threatened they are extremely curious, coming up to the surface and then ducking back down below. When we come across a particularly curious group they will circle the group for over 15 minutes before while other groups may just make a slow swim past the group with one or two of them coming up to investigate these strange two legged animals floating at the surface.
We’ve seen them ducking and diving, performing acrobatic aerial spins and belly flops, hunting fish and snake eels in the sand, playing with seaweed, stones and dragging their pectoral fins playfully along the sand. Mothers swimming closely with their young nudging them in the right direction when they stray from the pod and helping them perfect their swimming and behavioral techniques in this calm, confined water space.
I am just beginning to understand these creatures a bit more and am now able to identify a few from distinct markings and scars. Every day I am so grateful to share space with these majestic animals. Come share this magical experience with us at Spanish Dancer Divers.