Monday, October 10, 2011

University of Hawaii foreign exchange students swim with dolphins! Manta Rays! and a Shark!

Yesterday Wild Dolphin Swims Hawaii brought 20 foreign exchange students out on a big boat!  I do this trip every semester and it always turns out so well!  The dolphins were all stirred up in a circle as we observed them, lots of excitement, several porpoised past the boat.  All the students got in, 9 for their first snorkel ever! The dolphins were everywhere you looked.  Lots of new babies, three went under us that were only about 2 weeks old. 
Then my focus found something different among all the dolphins, right below us --quite a large shark was strolling around down there!  I signaled the captain, with a hand placed upright in the center of my head, and he brought the boat a little closer as the students caught on and gathered close around the boat.  Some students were too fascinated to leave.  My swim guide, Jan, and I held hands and kept between the shark and our group.  He was so close to the surface, not bothered by us at all, and dolphins were darting in to take a closer look. 
Bigger than the dolphins, Jan did some research & figures what I was told was a sand shark, seems to be a "bar shark" and this one about 10ft.  I've seen these sharks before in the same area, sometimes 3-4 or them together.  It was fun to watch the dolphins.  They moved quite quickly around it, but didn't startle the shark, the shark just gracefully moved around all the commotion.  Our students stayed calm and started coming back towards the shark as Jan and I herded it, or thought we were herding it, away from everyone.  It moved off, out of our sight, and the captain said the big male dolphins had moved in around it.  That was the second most interactive shark I've been with!
Then we went up to see the giant manta rays at a cleaning station and were lucky -- 3 large mantas hovered under us and over the reef for as long as we were in the water, about 20 minutes. Koie, a 12' female was among them.  A highlight for many of the students.  We got in again with the dolphins coming our way, and a  group of students got to swim with 4 spotted dolphins too!
Quite a day, the weather and waves calm and bright!