Tag Archives: Dolphins

More spinner dolphins

A spinner dolphin off Hawaii
Spinner dolphins off Hawaii

A couple more photos from my dolphin swim at the end March, for Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Bright.’ (See more responses here.)

Dolphins are bright in a couple of ways. They appear to be quite intelligent. One thing I noticed during this encounter was how much clicking noise the dolphins were making. It was more or less continuous. The clicking is basically the dolphin’s sonar, and it’s how they keep track of each other and their surroundings. It’s very precise and accurate.

Also, the markings of spinner dolphins in Hawaii differ from those elsewhere, which tend to be a more uniform gray. Hawaii’s spinners are only gray on top, with a pearly band along their sides, and a bright white underside, as prominently displayed by the dolphin in the center of the lower photo, showing off for the camera (possibly).

Another swim with dolphins

Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii

On Saturday, my wife and I got going early and went snorkeling. There was some swell rolling in and the visibility wasn’t great, but that had been the case the day before and we’d been pleasantly surprised to find that it was much clearer farther out. So we swam out, angling to the north.

Suddenly, I saw something coming past me from the other direction. I pointed to it and turned to my wife, only to see her doing the same thing. It quickly became clear that these were spinner dolphins, about 15 or so we thought. A couple of them seemed interested in checking us out, but quickly the pod continued heading south.

It’s fairly common for dolphins to swim past the bay we were in, probably heading to the place they’re going to rest during the day. But after this pod passed, they stayed underwater for a while. Before they disappeared, their direction was somewhat into the bay, and I was curious where they’d resurface.

We swam back the way we’d come, popping up frequently to see if we could spot them. Sure enough, after a few minutes, we not only saw fins in the bay, but that they were coming our way. I got my camera ready and out of the hazy water the dolphins emerged. There were a lot more than we first thought. They swept beneath us and around us, hanging out for a short while, before taking off to the northwest. We watched them go, thrilled to have had this encounter.

A little later, as I was heading back into the bay, I looked up to see another snorkeler followed by a cluster of fins. The dolphins hadn’t gone away! They’d doubled back again. I swam slowly in their general direction. There was no point rushing. If the dolphins came my way, fine. If not, I was never going to be able to catch up with them even if I wanted to.

Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii

Sure enough, the dolphins came rocketing by, and for the next 10 or 15 minutes they zipped around the bay. I mostly stayed in the center of the bay, not trying to chase, and there was no need to. I’d watch a group whizzing by, see them recede, then turn around and spot another group coming my way. They were very active, twisting around each other as they swam, soaring up and down. When I’d see them heading for the surface, I popped up, hoping to get a photo of one spinning up into the air, but I didn’t see any doing that on this occasion.

After a while, the dolphins moved away from where I was and I decided to head in. My wife and I thought there must have been at least 30 dolphins in the bay, perhaps more. When I looked at my photos, I saw that in one of them (the bottom photo), I could identify at least 40 dolphins, and I knew I hadn’t taken a photo of all of them. Probably there were 50 or 60, though I joked that after a few years of recalling this encounter the pod would likely be well into the hundreds!

One thing I can say with some certainty, is that swimming with dolphins never gets old for anyone. It’s always a thrill to spend a little time with these wonderful creatures in their natural environment.

Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii

Uplifting moments from 2020

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Your 2020 Retrospective.’ See more responses here. Also posted in response to Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ See more responses here.

In this retrospective I’ve focused on events and photos that were uplifting for me during the difficult year that was. Most of these photos haven’t run before, but were taken at the same time as those in posts that ran in 2020. Links to the original posts are at the end of the captions.

More spinner dolphin photos

Three spinner dolphins catch the light as they cruise through the water.
A trio of spinner dolphins diving past me.

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post about swimming with dolphins. Within a few months of moving to the Big Island I got to swim with dolphins. A large pod moved into the bay near where I was living and stayed for several hours. Swimming with them was great, but at that time, I didn’t have an underwater camera.

Since then, I’ve mostly seen dolphins from the shore, or just zipping by far enough away that I get a glimpse, but not much more. Several times dolphins have been around just before I get in the water, or just after I got out, or they’ve hung around in the bay on a day I didn’t swim at all.

Last week, several dolphins showed up just after I’d got out, but since they seemed like they might hang around, I got back in and swam out. By the time I got to the place they’d been, I saw them heading south. Four days ago, a small group of dolphins swam by, not far from where I was, without stopping. I got one not-very-good photo.

Three days ago, my wife and I were just preparing to get in when she saw dolphins. They were heading south, but not at speed. Then they seemed to pause. A couple twirled out of the water – spinner dolphins. Perhaps they were going to hang around. We got in the water and headed out.

From the water, it’s harder to spot dolphins unless they’re jumping. When I stopped to look, I couldn’t find them again. When I did, they appeared to be receding. I swam some more, looked up again, and saw dorsal fins. They were heading our way. I ducked my head underwater and got my camera ready. Moments later a group of 10 or more spinners emerged from the hazy water, got rapidly larger, and then passed by on either side of me. They kept going deeper into the bay and I turned to follow. I heard my wife shout and turned in time to see another group go by.

There’s no point chasing dolphins, and it’s not something anyone should do anyway. I’m not a fan of ‘swim with the dolphins’ tours, where they chase them and then dump a bunch of people into the water to get up close and personal. But when they hang around an area, I hang around too in the hope that they’ll come over to check me out. These dolphins did. The next few minutes were a whirlwind of dolphins passing, circling, diving, and occasionally jumping. In close proximity, their size and power was clear, as well as their intelligence and curiosity.

But then, as quickly as they’d arrived, they headed out to sea. The whole encounter was probably no more than 10 minutes, but it’s one I won’t forget, and when I got home I was thrilled that I’d captured several good images.

A spinner dolphin and snorkeler. There were four dolphins making circles around my wife for a short while.
A small group of spinner dolphins swims over sand and coral.

Swimming with dolphins

This is the final day of Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective.’ See more responses here.

I was planning on posting images relating to the final days of people who were human sacrifices on the island, a long time ago in case you’re wondering. But I changed my mind after an encounter with a pod of spinner dolphins a couple of days ago. I’ll post more photos tomorrow, but here are a couple to start with.

The top photo shows one of the dolphins coming over to check me out. In the bottom one, a group of dolphins cruises by below me. From my perspective, there are few finer things in life than such an encounter.

Spinner dolphins

Not long after I moved to Hawaii I was lucky enough to swim with a large pod of dolphins. They hung around the bay where I was for most of the day and, when I was in the water, swam around me with some curiosity. Back then I didn’t have a waterproof camera so didn’t get any photos.

Since then, I’ve seen dolphins from shore, but never got to swim with them again until recently. Then I encountered them twice within a couple of weeks. The first time I caught the tail end of a pod heading south along the coast. The second time I saw them a bit earlier, also heading south at speed and with purpose.

The water was murky so I didn’t get good photos, but since this is the first in-the-water photo of any kind that I’ve got of dolphins, I thought I’d post it anyway. Even though the pod passed without interacting with me, it was still a great moment to see them whizzing by with such grace and power.

Spinner dolphins

Spinner dolphin leap

Spinner dolphin leapingOn a recent walk I noticed some disturbance in the water not far offshore and was happy to see a school of 15 to 20 spinner dolphins. I thought they were headed south and set out to follow them from shore. Then they turned around and went north again. I followed. This happened several times, so I just sat down and watched while they tried to make up their minds.

Spinner dolphins get their name from the twirls they make when they leap from the water. It’s thought this activity helps dolphins know where others in the school are because the bubbles generated by their takeoff and return to the water are a good target for their echolocation.

Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Back to School’ (Yes, it’s a stretch!). See more responses here.

Spinner dolphins