Greetings from West End, Grand Bahama, where we have just completed our first of three week-long cruises to swim with the playful spotted dolphins of the Little Bahama Bank.
Capt. Gene Flipse of Conscious Breath Adventures and Capt. Jeff Pantukhoff of the Whaleman Foundation first met and became friends swimming with these dolphins in 1995, and after almost thirty cruises together in the Bahamas followed by a five year hiatus, we are very happy to make our return to see these dolphins we love so much.
Our group of ten adventurers for this week included a family group of five, two friends from the UK, and three returning guests who have been out with us to swim with the humpback whales of the Silver Bank. It was great to see them again, and to make some new friends, too.
In the weather almanacs, July historically has the calmest winds and seas that the Bahamas has to offer all year, but this week was the exception! Our week started windy and with a few storms, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm as we left the marina on Sunday evening and started north onto the Little Bahama Bank, and ended as an excellent adventure had by all.
During the days that followed we visited some of our favorite locations on the Bank, all the while keeping a watchful eye for the spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins that make this area their home.
Monday, July 1:
It was still choppy this morning but early on we found a single spotted dolphin around an hour after getting underway and were left wondering where his friends were? In the same area later in the day we came across another spotted dolphin along with four bottlenose and we think it was the same dolphin with some interspecies buddies. In the mid afternoon we had our first big interaction when we encountered a group of 8-10 friendly spotted dolphins and spent a half hour playing as hard as we could. It was a great start to the trip!
This morning we made a stop at the Sugar Wreck, a molasses barge that wrecked and sank in just 18’ of water more than one hundred years ago. It is an oasis of life and a super place to snorkel and dive with myriad species of fish, sharks, rays and more. In the afternoon we cruised the edge of the Bank northward and twice found pods of 9-12 bottlenose which gave us great dolphin watching as they cruised with the boat. Then later we were happy to jump back in with a group of more than a dozen spotted dolphins who gave us another half hour of the best kind of exercise there is!
The unseasonable wind continued today but the sun was shining brightly and spirits remain high. After a pleasant cruise from our anchorage there was plenty of dolphins to see. Cruising in the area locally referred to as the South Bar, we again found pods of 10-20 bottlenose and enjoyed a great show as they socialized, played or rode the bow wave of the M/V Carib Dancer. We also had a short but sweet swim with a pod of four spotted dolphins whose energy was higher than we were able to match. What made this encounter special was that while we were swimming with the spotted dolphins, several bottlenose joined in the action, so we were swimming with two species of dolphin at the same time!
This morning we decided to stay a little closer to where we’ve had our greatest success so far, in the area referred to locally as the South Bar. The South Bar is essentially a enormous sandbar that sits right on the edge of the Bahama Bank, with water colors shading from swimming pool blue to the deep purple-blue of the Gulf Stream depths. We’ve seen bottlenose and spotted dolphins here nearly every day and the view is always spectacular. We did swim with maybe 10 spotted dolphins for a short while but the highlight was our deep water adventure, where the intrepid group of snorkelers drifted for more than half a mile along the edge of the Bank where the waters quickly drop from 40’ to 100’ and more. Along with lots of fish, we saw three species of sharks, including Caribbean reef sharks, a lemon shark and a big great hammerhead, too! We followed that with another stop at the ever-popular Sugar Wreck where a friendly turtle introduced himself to the group.
Sometimes it works out that the best comes last and with respect to the dolphins, that was true today! After having a delicious breakfast of omelets made to order, we pulled anchor and had barely traveled 100 yards before we found a pod of twelve spotted dolphins coming our direction. Within moments we were all in the water swooping, spinning and diving, playing at full speed with a mix of young calves and their mothers and some of the heavily spotted elders. The calves were especially enthusiastic, whistling as they zipped up, down and around. After an exciting half hour we watched from the boat as the pod cruised along, feeding on flying fish that crossed their paths. Then the pod approached the boat again as if in invitation so we answered the call and joined them for another half hour that was even more fun than the first. It was a fantastic few hours with the dolphins.
Afterward we had another drift on the deep reef, seeing a few more sharks and a huge green moray eel, before climbing out and setting course for the marina at the end of a very fun week.