• Saturday , 6 June 2020

The Dolphins of Mnemba Atoll

It’s 2018; never has there been a more urgent time to look upon the captivity of animals as barbaric, inhuman and wrong. If you haven’t seen Blackfish please immediately go to your preferred online streaming site and sit down and watch it. As divers we need to encourage each other to spend our money with local businesses that promote interactions with animals playing freely in the wild. But it’s harder than it looks. Unfortunately, especially in the case of aquatic animals, they are hugely inaccessible and unpredictable and this was positively the devastating reason that Swimming-with-Dolphins programmes exist in the first place.

Well, cheer up readers! Guess what? Here in Zanzibar we know where they’re playing and they let us join in. This is a very sustainable and eco-friendly diving experience in Zanzibar.

On any given day on the way to Mnemba Atoll our boats created a wake on the surface. Our resident Bottlenose dolphins jump playfully at the stern, the bow and all around. This is a common occurrence around the world but the difference here in Zanzibar is that they don’t get scared easily. If you enter the water calmly they continue to play and swim. They look like they don’t even move as you’re swimming your socks off trying to catch up with them.

This species is typical of warm tropical water. They are found in groups and are highly social animals. They make squeaking, whistling and clicking noises as well as body language to communicate. They also use a sonar signal to figure out the proximity of anything in the water with them. You may hear this as a piercing sound in the water. The weigh an average 650 pounds and reach an average 13ft. They are highly intelligent animals and have a larger brain (relatively speaking) than humans. Which is why we need to support tourism that allows them to live in the ocean with their social groups instead of belonging to an aquarium or marine park. Don’t buy tickets to Sea World.

Threats to Dolphins include captivity and hunters in Denmark, Sri Lanka and Japan (another interesting animal rights movie is The Cove). The most deaths can be attributed to falling victim to by-catch (I wouldn’t trust that ‘Dolphin Friendly’ Tuna thank you very much). Pollution and specifically plastic pollution is currently the largest threat to all our ocean’s creatures.

Dolphins are special animals. They have been known to save the lives of swimmers and divers who have found themselves in trouble; possibly the most famous account were the four swimmers of Whangarei in New Zealand where they herded the swimmers away from a shark that was circling the group.

These incredible animals can be seen on any given snorkel trip, scuba expedition or boat ride on the way out to the Atoll. The crystal clear water make it even easier to see them under the water and get the whole life-time experience on camera.

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