spinner dolphins

Swimming with the dolphins.

An Obsession with Dolphins

I have always loved dolphins. Growing up on the Southern California coast it was good luck if I spotted them from the freeway on my way to school. The Bottlenose dolphins that called the waters of my childhood home their own were my favourite locals. Once I was lucky enough to have a pod pass by a friend and I as we were waiting for a set on our surf boards, but that was as close as I have ever come to them. Until today.

A dolphin is an ethereal creature. A creature so intelligent, yet playful, that they seem almost human as they frolic beneath the waves. It is strange though, to be here in the water with these beautiful animals that I have so admired from a distance all my life. All I can think as the pod passes under me is that I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Snorkeling with Dolphins

This morning my family and I set off with SeaQuest Kona in search of dolphins. The boat we came in on is small, with just enough room for the captain, two guides, and fourteen guests, but the surf has been blessedly calm and the journey to this tranquil bay was easy. As I float in the gentle waves the pod passes us again, their chattering, squeaking song filling my ears. One dolphin swims towards another, rubbing its nose across the other’s belly in what seems to be the aquatic equivalent of tickling. Their sleek, streamlined grey bodies twist and flip in the water with what can only be described as joy.

The approximately twenty dolphins that I am snorkeling with today are resting, as these Hawaiian spinner dolphins go out to sea at night to hunt then return to their home bays to sleep during the day. They never fall fully asleep though, instead they shut off half their brains as they slowly drift about the waters close to shore. Sometimes they wake up to play in the day though, like children too excited to sleep.

Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins

The Hawaiian spinner dolphins do not migrate. They stay in the bays they were born in, thus how we were able to find them within thirty minutes of leaving the harbor. That is what makes this place, this trip, so special. Only here, in Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, can you swim with wild dolphins on their terms, in their home. This is not an ethically questionable swim with captive dolphins doomed to the monotony of performing tricks for tourists, this is the privilege of being able to see them as they are meant to be seen, free in their ocean world.

Then, all too soon, the dolphins leave. They have decided that they’d rather finish their rest elsewhere so I head back to the boat. I pull off my snorkel gear and wait my turn for the ladder. As I am hauling myself back onto the boat, I can just make out their fins cresting the surface of the waves, already far in the distance.


Written by: Monica Puccetti

Monica Puccetti picMonica is a directionally challenged traveler searching the world for good beer, cute animals, and new stories to tell. She has been traveling for the past two years as a budget backpacker and adventure seeker, looking for all the best this wild world has to offer. You can follow her adventure at www.whichwayswest.com

All photos by: Monica Puccetti
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