Planning on Diving with Dolphins? Have These Things in Mind
Encountering dolphins in the wild is an unforgettable experience for any diver. At first glance, these amazing marine mammals are always playing and having a blast. They jump out of the water, chase each other, and then suddenly disperse. But what may look like a game to us is actually part of the life of a pod of dolphins and a matter of survival. No matter how much they may fascinate us, the only trace our presence should leave is air bubbles in the water.
Things to Be Aware of on the Dive
There are a few other things divers everywhere should keep in mind when it comes to dolphins with the first being the law. In many countries, including in the United States, there is strict legislation about how close you’re allowed to get to dolphins and whales. Some countries outright prohibit being in the water next to them. If encountering wild dolphins is expected to be part of your dive, then be sure to check that the company offering the tour is not causing you to violate local laws.
It’s very important to remember that dolphins are wild animals. Give them their space; don’t treat them like they’re in a zoo. Don’t approach a dolphin, rather let it come to you. Of course, the closer the dolphin gets, the more tempted you’ll be to touch it, but that could drive the whole pod away. Dolphins have very delicate skin that is easily damaged by watches, fingernails, or rings. It’s much better for the dolphins if you keep your hands to yourself.
Before interacting with dolphins, you would do well to study their behaviorial patterns and use this information as an indicator of what they’re feeling. For example, slapping the water with their tail is a sign of excitement while a series of quick exhalations is a sign of anxiety.
Touching fins, rubbing bellies, and synchronized swimming are ways that dolphin families interact with each other. Dolphins don’t even leave the pod to mate. In fact, that’s usually accompanied by underwater acrobatics. When a pod of dolphins is moving through the water, it may be playing games or traveling in search of food, for recreation, or sleeping. (Only half of a dolphin’s brain sleeps while the second half stays awake.) Dolphins do sometimes jump out of the water to look around, though.
Do Your Homework First
All of these activities by dolphins have been studied and documented so reading up on it will prove useful if you’re planning on encountering a pod. Being able to interpret their behavior will help you know whether to either leave them alone if you’ve become a source of irritation or that you’re welcome to stick around. In general, understanding the basic patterns of dolphin behavior will help you to avoid interfering with the pod, since you should not be altering the pod’s dynamics in any way. That being said, an unplanned encounter with a dolphin pod at sea can be a most pleasant surprise because you’ll be able to observe them acting completely naturally.
Your preparation for the dive should include choosing equipment based on what is most suitable for that particular environment and dolphin habitat. Dolphins are sometimes more likely to interact with snorkelers rather than divers so it may be worth taking along a snorkleing mask and flippers besides your dive gear, just in case.