Thursday, 6 April 2017
A very special encounter on the Sound of Arisaig
The pod of seven Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) approached us as we sat in our kayaks, and for the next forty minutes we were treated to a wonderful close quarters interaction with these intelligent and engaging creatures.
There's advice on best practice when watching cetaceans (as well as a few points on the law) in the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code. There's absolutely no doubt that these dolphins initiated the contact and although it's easy to stray into anthropomorphism, our overwhelming feeling was that they were enjoying the encounter as much as we were - indeed at times they seemed to be showing off! At over 3 metres in length and weighing up to 400Kgs, Bottlenose Dolphins are powerful animals, but all the time they were with us their behaviour was relaxed and even gentle.
The animals stayed close to us and investigated the boats, swimming alongside and under the kayaks. There was a calf with the group and its mother brought it close to each of us - there was no sign of distress or agitation, just a shared curiosity.
Occasionally one or more of the dolphins would leap clear of the water - unfortunately none of us managed to get an image of them in full flight!
As we headed slowly towards the beach for second breakfast, the dolphins came along with us....
...staying close by as we moved slowly along. This was one of the most thrilling and engaging wildlife experiences possible - we were absolutely captivated. It's the norm for wild creatures to shy away or flee from humans, but here were a group of the most intelligent creatures on the planet actively seeking out and maintaining close contact - it's hard to put into words how emotionally enriching that is.
Indeed, if we'd wanted to get away from them, we couldn't have! Three of the pod in particular seemed to relish getting close to us.....
......and seemed not to tire of swimming below us. This image does no justice to the clarity with which we were able to maintain eye contact as the dolphins swam below our kayaks; sometimes twisting onto their backs to get a better view of us.
Only when we headed into the shallow, emerald green water of a sandy bay did the dolphins leave us and move off along the coast.
Enjoying second breakfast in the sunshine above a white sand beach, we reflected on what a truly special encounter we'd had - it was turning into a superb day!