Thursday, March 27, 2014

Swimming With Dolphins.

Inspired in-part by the urging of friend and fellow blogger, Jeanette Jobson, Sunday, March 23rd, we finally went swimming with wild dolphins. In case you might be interested in the specifics of the trip, click on this link to the Best of the West tour.

You could say we were a bit excited, making the drive to Waianae Boat Harbor, located on the west side of the island, in only forty-five minutes instead of the expected hour.  We arrived a full hour prior to check-in time of eight AM!  About a half-hour later we saw crew members, Malori and her sister Loren arrive to prep the Alaka'i for today's trip.

Captain Tori Cullins came aboard last and after a brief about the boat, the rules to be observed with respect to the sea life and signing waivers, we got underway.  We were barely out of the berth when a large green sea turtle popped its head up for a look around!  It was a good omen of what was to come.  I took 168-photos today, though none were underwater. :(  Happily, many previous adventurers had underwater cameras and they have generously shared their photos on the Internet.  I've labeled the underwater images taken from the Internet and have only used those which show exactly, or very closely, what we saw today. :)  Let's go!

Captain of the Alaka'i, Ms Tori Cullins, on the flying bridge.  Her impressive credentials can be found on the Best of the West link above.

This curious green sea turtle popped-up just as were getting underway.  Click on any of the images to enlarge.

On our way, with a view of the west side of Oah'u looking north.

Zooming out to sea, Michele and the other couple on board, as well as the crew, look for signs of dolphins or whales.  They require a minimum of four customers to go out, with six being the maximum.

Dolphins along side!  Our crew said they were Spotted Dolphins.  The ocean was moderately rough today and taking photos while hanging on to a rail proved challenging.  Many images I thought captured dolphins or whales ended-up showing nothing but the vacant sea or sky.   

If memory serves, this is a Bottle-Nose Dolphin traveling along-side the boat.

I'm guessing these are Spotted Dolphins.  We saw Spotted, Bottle-Nose and Spinner dolphins today, but due to the rock-and-roll of the boat, the dolphin's incredible speed and water distortion, it was difficult to remember now, just which variety I was photographing.  Life is hard in Hawaii! :))

Splash!  A playful dolphin returns to the water.

Captain Tori made several wide turns, creating a wake which the dolphins found irresistible for body surfing.  This is one of my favorite shots of the trip. :)

Another good shot, though it was pure luck.  Sometimes, luck is better than skill.

The playful dolphins also liked riding the bow wave and this one is just diving in front of the Alaka'i.

I'm hanging out over the bow (notice the anchor) for this photo and again, pure luck that I caught this amazing athlete in mid-air.

Another one riding the bow wave, just below the surface.  They swim so fast and make it seem completely effortless.  What a joy to be in their presence.

First Mate Malori points out a whale soon after the dolphins disappeared.  To be honest, we'd been around many dolphins, but hadn't entered the water yet.  Now, we were watching whales and I was beginning to wonder if actually swimming with dolphins would ever happen.  Oh, "me" of little faith!

Michele and the rest of us were hugging the port rail to marvel as this humpback whale took a giant breath and headed down.

Today was the closest we've ever been to whales in Hawaii and it was quite a thrill.

I believe this was a mother humpback and her calf.

Here, the giant's flukes are just about to break the surface as it dives.

 As the captain maneuvered to keep proper distance from the whales, this large green sea turtle crossed our path.

I got this picture as the turtle thanked us for not running over her. :)

The aftermath of a half-breach.  It's also my most disappointing "half-missed" photo.

This may be a male escort, a female and her calf.  What a day!  And we're not finished  yet! :)

Flukes!  Finally.  I missed many others, capturing only the whales backs.  Not long after this was taken, Captain Tori turned the boat toward the location of the Spinner Dolphins we would soon be swimming among!! :)))

This gentleman was having a great time surrounded by Spinner Dolphins.  Our captain brought us to the resident pod's hangout and invited us to get in the amazingly clear water. 

This is a photo taken from the Internet, but it shows, almost exactly what the four of us, plus Malori, looked like in the water.  The Spinner Dolphin pod is huge and they seemed to be lounging in groups from about a dozen to thirty-plus.  The water was crystal clear--the clearest we've seen, so far, on Oah'u.

Another shot taken from the Internet, by folks doing the same tour as us.  The dolphins have likely just taken a breath and are lazily heading deeper.  They never came close enough to reach out and touch, but that's okay as we were instructed not to touch them.

Once again, an Internet photo showing a group of Spinners meandering along.  This is exactly how they looked as they passed beneath me several times.  I counted nearly fifty!

A final Internet image.  I'm not sure you'll be able to enlarge this one, but it's a good approximation of how things looked in the water today.

The experience we enjoyed today was exciting, educational and fun.  To be so close to these wonderful creatures, in their environment, is something we'll never forget.  We'd like to express our appreciation and thanks to Captain Cullins and her crew for their  professionalism and doing their utmost to ensure we all had a wonderful time.    


  1. What an amazing experience...and in your own back yard. They are beautiful creatures!

  2. Wow! What a trip - thanks for sharing the photos. When we went on a whale watch in Hawaii (several years ago), we saw a lot of these spinner dolphins but no whales. The dolphin sighting was pretty cool, though, as they swam and leaped all around us, along with flying fish. Not as neat (or as scary) was swimming with a pod of them, though.

  3. Good Morning Lisa,
    Glad you enjoyed the post. It was an experience we'll never forget and I'm happy to be able to share it with the world. :)
    Have a wonderful day, Lisa.

  4. Hey Rhonda,
    We'd have loved to see the Spinner Dolphins doing their thing in the air, but according to our crew, we saw them during a resting period. Still beautiful and graceful, however, so no reason to complain. :)
    The number of them slowly circling around surprised me. I thought maybe we'd see...oh, I dunno, maybe a dozen. I stopped counting in the forties! I just wish they would've come closer when the groups slowly rose to the surface to breathe. Oh, well, nature doesn't always accommodate us.
    Enjoy your day, Rhonda, and I hope the allergies don't get you down.

  5. I'm so glad you were able to experience this and see the whales too as an added bonus. And the turtles, amazing. Great images and description as always that brings me there, thanks for sharing it Gary. I have to plan your next adventure now...haha

  6. Hi Jeanette,
    It was a pleasure to share the adventure--especially with you, Jeanette. After were the catalyst who made it happen. :) Stay tuned, as I'll be posting another batch of photos taken by the crew. They captured quite a few wonderful shots I missed by fumbling around with the camera and trying to remain upright and on the boat.
    We'll be standing-by for your next "suggestion"! :))
    Have a good day tomorrow!