A trip to see dolphins with a couple of guests – and we could not have been more blessed. The weather was beautiful – warm sun, blue skies with a scattering of clouds, a light breeze. Our boatman Joe was a warm, confident young man who had spent his life growing up around the waters of the bay. He took us out along the eastern coast line of Natewa Bay (the largest bay in the South Pacific) to a spot he obviously knew, and cut the engine. Then he stood up in the back of the boat and whistled – long shrill whistles, four or five. Story book fables, I thought – but how wrong that was.
Within moments the water 400 metres away rippled and gleamed black; a few shapes broke the surface and then there were five, ten, twenty dolphins leaping and racing. Joe turned the engine on again and powered the boat through the water; some of the dolphins stayed about 150 metres away but many others came streaking in, diving under the hull, weaving in front of the prow, showing off their magnificent speed and graceful movements. They are quite small , perhaps one and a half to two metres in length, and they seemed to love playing, happily staying alongside us, speeding up when we did and cruising forward when we slowed down. Off the starboard there was one who decided to give us a display of leaping and spinning, and we cried out our admiration.
When we finally stopped and turned back towards the reef, we came across two things. First, a floating plastic bottle. Giselle, who is deeply committed to the health of the seas, saw it and got Joe to turn back so we could pick it up. And as we did so we spotted a small turtle very close to the surface, swimming along in apparent exhaustion. We circled again and Jo leaned over the side of the boat, grabbed it and brought it on board. When we got to the reef he delivered it back into the ocean near the food supply it needed.
The reefs in Natewa Bay are spectacular, with vast beds of hard coral and a rich fish life. We spent a happy half hour snorkelling there, returning to the beach where the tide had now dropped a long way.
It was the perfect trip. There’s a more than even chance of seeing dolphins – Joe says it depends on weather, tides and chance, but reckons he finds them 3 times in 5. My own experience is that I’ve been out 3 times and seen them twice. Even if you don’t find them, it’s still a lovely drive to Natewa Bay and the boat trip and snorkelling are wonderful. But this day, we had the dream trip – it doesn’t get any better.