Life as a DolphinCare Volunteer
Being able to fulfil your childhood dream is always an amazing feeling that can be sometimes hard to describe. For me, a passion for the ocean and especially Cetaceans has always been a huge part of my life but hasn’t always been easy, as wanting to be a marine biologist but not being strong at science doesn’t go very well together. Luckily for me, I was able to graduate in Marine & Natural History Photography giving me the chance pursue an ocean-related career.
After also completing a Responsible Whale Watching Guide Course with the World Cetacean Alliance, I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to come out here to Mozambique to volunteer with Dolphin Encountours Research Center, Angie and the local Dolphins of Ponta. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be spending nearly everyday for 2 months in the water with Bottlenose Dolphins, observing and learning their different behaviours first hand, while also being able to finally put my degree to use and build up a portfolio that so far, I am very proud of. Not only have I been spoilt with dolphins, but also Humpback Whales, that are currently migrating through and often giving us shows of their agility and curiosity. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of seeing a 40 ton whale breach so gracefully out of the water. Even if I saw this once my life would be complete and I’ve been lucky enough to witness this many times.
The same goes for the dolphins. When you’re patiently waiting in the blue, already hearing their squeaks and whistles, not knowing what direction they will come from and suddenly seeing a small or huge pod emerge out of no where, peacefully and elegantly gliding past you, looking you in the eye and swimming around you is just incredible. I often look back at my footage and wonder ‘did this actually happen?’.
I’ve learnt so much from seeing different behaviours first hand, from nice behaviours such as circling swimming, playful calves and bubble trains to aggressive behaviours such as jaw clapping and tail slapping, as well as some sexual behaviours. It never ceases to amaze me how intelligent these creatures are; when they look you directly in the eye you can almost see their brains trying to work out what you are, but many times they seem to enjoy swimming with as just as much as we enjoy swimming with them.
However, the one negative that I have witnessed would have to be that when it was the holidays and there were many more people around, the Dolphins disappeared. There were some days where we would just have one or two, or there were other days, sometimes consecutive days where we wouldn’t find any. The ocean was very busy in this time period, lots of boats and lots of tourists in the sea creating noise pollution, which for animals that are very sensitive to noise, I can see why they retreated to quieter areas. Although saying this, once the area had quietened down, they returned in no time.
As well as dolphin swims, I’ve been able to get other kinds of experiences and work such as observing from land, helping out with data work and working on skeletons, all of which I find fascinating. Although for me, my favourite part has been being able to be videographer/photographer and being given the chance to put the Dolphin diaries videos together, which I am so grateful for.
Sabrina and Cassie with the completed seal....
I can’t thank Angie and the rest of the crew enough for giving me the opportunity to live my dream, even just for a few months, but I hopefully from all the experience I have gained here so far, I will be able to continue this wherever it may be. Dolphin Encountours Research Center and the dolfriends will always have a special place in my heart.