My dolphin interaction on Terrigal Beach was pone of the highlights of my year. I usually have my phone on by 7am with 2 children under 6 years old – I’m usually awake by then. Why is it on school holiday mornings my kids seem to wake up so early?? Little did I know this Monday morning was going to be a bit special! I’m a member of Orrca Inc(Organization for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) – an Organization made up of volunteers who have been trained in the event we have a whale, dolphin or other cetacean in need of help. We babysit Leopard seals who’ve beached for a rest – to protect onlookers and their dogs from these large (and fast) creatures. ORRCA is also involved with the protection and welfare of seals, sea lions, dolphins and dugongs. Every year ORRCA volunteers spend many hours protecting hauled out seals and monitoring other marine mammals. We also work with Government Authorities and other groups with marine mammal rehabilitation and release. ORRCA’s input is also sought when legislative bodies are amending existing laws or introducing new ones. Back to my Monday – the text from Orrca arrived early, asking for members in the Terrigal area to keep an eye on a dolphin who’d taken residence at the Haven over the weekend. Kids in the car – sunnies, cozzies and sun cream too and we were off. Once at the Haven we stood for ages looking for any sign of our dolphin – it sure was keeping a low profile. Then finally the fin popped up around a boat – there it was and there it stayed circling the same boat, round and round it went. What a privilege to have a dolphin in the Haven and seemingly not wanting to leave it either – but why? I rely on my intuition a lot as I love to dowse too so when I first heard we had a special visitor in the Haven my gut feeling was she was pregnant or had given birth – either way the baby had not survived and she needed to grieve. It was just a feeling nothing more. I called in Orrca to report we had spotted the dolphin and suggested – being a scuba instructor, perhaps the Parks & Wildlife Services & Orrca want to know more about the dolphin i.e. could I dive in and film it ? Orrca did their research from a kayak that night however rang me early the next day asking if I could snorkel around the Haven with my GoPro and get some closer footage /photos. OMG yes !! One child went to pre-school the other I managed to find a friend to look after for a couple of hours that afternoon. I got to Terrigal after a storm had rolled through – jumped into my shorty, mask, fins & snorkel and off to speak to Greg from Parks & Wildlife who had been on guard duty the day before. He hadn’t seen the dolphin for over an hour – perhaps the storm had sent it out to sea.
I jumped into the water anyway and started searching, diving down under each boat to see if I could find her. Nothing – no sign of her. I went over to the reef and the rocks and had a look there – the viz was shocking that day so I had to rely on Greg too. Finally Greg spotted her and signaled for me to go out to the furthest boat – again. Off I went – just about there and on the surface I see this fin coming towards me – just the fin. For a moment I went cold – fin on the surface and I’m up here too OMG!! Then of course realized this was our dolphin so get camera ready and go go go. No need to rush or panic – she swam straight past me and then dived down. So I followed. We played “follow the leader” for some time – I filmed and finned & filmed and finned and what an experience. I chose not to touch her just to be with her swimming – just the two of us in this magical moment. I lost her a few times – they are pretty fast and the viz was shocking, however she reappeared close by and we dived down again. Sometimes it felt as though she knew I needed a breath as she would surface to help me and we’d drop down again. I know dolphins breath too however she can hold her breath longer than I can. We bonded for at least 10 minutes swimming around the same boat. I had enough footage to help Orrca so turned the camera off and had a last albeit brief look at her. Then the storm rolled in again and she was gone.
I had accomplished what I set out to do and had the most magical of moments. I reported back to Orrca what had happened – what she looked like to me and any markings etc. I sent the footage through to Ronnie at Orrca and spoke with him later about his perspective on her. We could tell she wasn’t pregnant however what he then shared with me took my breath away. He thought she might have lost a baby as a still born had washed up a few days prior to this on a Sydney beach. They would need a DNA sample to confirm she was the mother however this sort of behavior (i.e. leaving the pod to mourn) is not uncommon in dolphins. Wow – maybe my intuition was right or maybe not I had tuned into a dolphin that is grieving for her lost baby. More importantly I had this amazing experience with this beautiful dolphin – something few of us are privileged to do. If you want to know about Orrca Inc. please click on this link and join us – get trained up and ready for the next visitor to grace us with their presence. I’ve babysat a Leopard seal on Avoca Beach another on Umina Beach and a Southern Right whale calf at Macmaster’s beach too. This dolphin bonding for me is one of those experiences I will treasure forever and here for you, is the footage so you can see why – I have also included a few other incredible sightings I had that same week in the Haven including sharks copulating or cuddling as my 3 year old was told. Never complain about the diving in the Haven is teeming with beauty and wonder – you have to get in the water to be witness to it all. So come diving.
Words & Video by Lyndi K. Leggett SSI Specialist Scuba Instructor