It is necessary to remember that the dolphins have been living in this area for millions of years before the arrival of humans and that they lead rich and busy lives. We need to respect the fact that they have many priorities and they sometimes need their privacy and space. Wild dolphins are also very spontaneous and can sometimes go from feeding, to sleeping, to playing and mating within 20 minutes time. The following are some examples of dolphin behavior you may witness on one of our excursions to the dolphins’ home.
Our Behavior while Watching Wild Dolphins
We operate our boats with concern and common sense when observing wild dolphins. We never approach at high speed, chase or herd the dolphins. If we find ourselves within 50 yards of dolphins we operate at idle speeds and avoid using reverse gear. We do our best to stay on a parallel course to the dolphins in order to avoid blocking or interfering with their path. We absolutely never feed or harass dolphins.
Dolphins are champions at catching fish and it is joy to have the privilege of watching their strength, speed, and agility in action. When dolphins are feeding we always watch from a distance. This is a great time for topside observation and zoom lens photography. You often see the dolphins chasing and herding fish both cooperatively and individually.
When dolphins are in a playful, social mood they are full of energy and exuberance. Social time usually starts off with several dolphins swimming together, rubbing pectoral fins, and being extremely tactile with one another. Sometimes the younger dolphins and babies will play games with one another, tossing a sand dollar, playing tag with a piece of seaweed, and even wrestling each other. Some of these behaviors even mimic adult dolphin mating behavior.
This playful time is when they are most likely to interact with humans and will often seek out boats to surf along with. Dolphins are extremely intelligent and their interest in us is often based on curiosity and spontaneity. Sometimes they can’t resist bow-riding or just coming over to greet their old friend, ‘Patty C.’
Dolphins sleep with only half of their brain at a time. They close one eye, which allows the opposite side of the brain to go into sleep mode. It is more like we would think of as a deep meditation. They don’t have a specific time to rest or sleep like humans do. They decide to sleep as a group and most of the pod will go into this half sleep at the time.
Dolphins are highly intelligent animals with complex social structures. The first several years of a baby dolphins life is spent very close to his mother watching and learning everything from her and his/her other elders. Everything from navigating and traveling in new areas, hunting different species of fish, and even social skills are learned behaviors. It is because of this that researchers are beginning to study cultural differences in dolphin pods around the world. Just as it is known that pods of orca whales from different areas have distinct dialects, the same applies to other cetaceans and their habits.