There is nothing more heartwarming than a close encounter with bottlenose dolphins. Anytime I am lucky enough to spot them on the reef during a dive, it feels like there is a genuine connection between us. It’s difficult to explain but I can somehow sense that I am being acknowledged and accepted by them in their natural environment.
This species of dolphin lives in pods of a dozen plus individuals and are regularly seen on and around most dive locations on the east coast of South Africa and Mozambique. They usually move along the coast between reefs and are often spotted just behind the breaking surf. As such, encounters while scuba diving do happen but not too often, and it is a treat for any diver to have a chance to see them. A number of conservation-minded dolphin tour operators also offer the unique opportunity to snorkel with them.
Bottlenose dolphins are very intelligent and have a complex social life. A dive guide I know from Sodwana Bay had an incredible encounter while he was free-diving with a local pod of dolphins. One of them picked up a shell from the sandy bottom and brought it to him, dropping it almost straight into his hands. How is that for an interaction with this marine mammal?!
5 facts about bottlenose dolphins:
1. Even though they are marine creatures, dolphins are actually mammals – they breathe and reproduce in a way very similar to humans.
2. They typically rise to the surface to breathe through their blowholes two to three times per minute, although they can remain submerged for up to 20 minutes.
3. Bottlenose dolphins typically live in groups of 10–30 members, called pods, although much larger groups have been spotted.
4. Dolphins often work as a team to harvest fish schools, but they also hunt individually.
5. Dolphins search for prey primarily using echolocation, which is similar to sonar.
Learn about bottlenose dolphins in my Creatures of the Sea series: