A few days back we had a great experience with spinner dolphins in Chagos.
A huge pod of them were playing inside the lagoon on quite a calm day so we
tore out in the dinghy to play with them. They quite often play in Aroha's
bow wave when we're on passage, but it was quite an experience being that
much closer to the water and to them. As they darted under us and weaved
back and forward across our bow, Helen was paranoid that we were going to
run one over. How would we explain that to the kids!? Anyway, they managed
to stay away from our propeller and stayed with us as we zoomed around in
circles and figure eights through their huge pod. Spinner dolphins get
their name from the way they lift from the water and twist vertically, but
the move that surprised me was the way they swim on their backs and splash
their tails on the surface of the water. I thought that was a trick they
saved for Sea World type performances.
We snorkelled pretty much every day in Chagos, trying out different spots
and visiting some of the small nearby islands. One of our favourite spots
is in the gap between Takamaka and Fouquet islands. The current whizzes
through there at all states of tide, making for a fun drift snorkel, whilst
a 'designated driver' stays with the dinghy and drifts through to pick up
the swimmers on the inside of the lagoon. This gap has earned the nick name
'the aquarium' for its fish life, although you have to look quickly before
it passes by. There are usually a couple of little black tip reef sharks
waiting down current, presumably for any fish who can't keep up with the
After each snorkel, our fish guide books normally get a bit of a work out,
trying to identify newly spotted wildlife.
The real wildlife prize came a few days ago, in the form of a dead whale.
The less politically correct amongst us named it "Sashimi", although the
name didn't really catch on and it was better known as "the whale". Yeah
yeah, it's sad that it was dead, but it's all part of the circle of life.
The five meter long male beaked whale was washed into the lagoon over the
reef one night. Sten and Danika towed it and tied it to a mooring bouy
marking a small reef just behind Aroha, and emailed BIOT to see if their
wildlife guys are interested in looking at it. Further snorkelling
activities off the boat were cancelled, with two tonnes of shark bait
We rafted up in our dinghies that evening, to toast to the whales life as
the sun went down. Geeze, any excuse for a drink!
Sure enough, the next morning the carcass was torn free of the buoy and huge
chunks taken out of its stomach and tail area. We could see four meter long
tiger sharks circling under us- longer than our dinghies! Those guys are
big- they are really solid both width and height-wise. Sten and Danika
towed the carcass again, into the shallows, so that BIOT (who'd replied "we'll
be there before it starts to smell too much!") could study it. Even though
it was too shallow for the tiger sharks to get in, the reef was soon teeming
with black tip reef sharks (very common here, but quite small at about a
meter and a half), sting rays, nurse sharks (a treat to see- about three
meters long) and every other reef dweller out for a free dinner.
A day later the BIOT fisheries guy turned up with a tape measure and camera.
Sashimi was by now emitting a strong oiling, fishy stench, that feels like
it's still in the back of my nostrils. With nothing more to be done, Sten
and Danika prepare to tow it back into deeper water for the tiger sharks.
We missed the feeding frenzy as we wanted to leave to Maldives already, but
we look forward to reading about it in their blog.