N I G E L M A R S H P H O T O G R A P H Y
U N D E R W A T E R I M A G E S A N D A R T I C L E S
By Nigel Marsh and Helen Rose
Over the years we have been diving we have had many encounters with dolphins. Unfortunately, all these encounters have been very brief and usually at a distance, with the dolphins rarely within range to capture a photo. We expected the same on a recent trip to Egypt’s Red Sea when the crew informed us we were diving a site called Dolphin House, and to expect dolphins.
At this stage of the trip we had already been diving the Red Sea for five days from the wonderful liveaboard Emperor Superior. And so far the trip had been spectacular, exploring colourful reefs, historic shipwrecks and seeing thresher sharks, hammerheads, schooling fish, turtles and a whale shark.
Arriving at Dolphin House, on Sha'ab Samadai Reef, in the late afternoon, our first dive was to be a night dive. During the dive brief we were informed that dolphins were not seen at night, but the reef was home to a great variety of critters. With this information I fitted a macro lens on my camera and we got ready to dive.
With the sun setting on the horizon we were on the duckboard preparing to enter the water when there was a cry of “DOLPHINS!” Some of the divers dropped everything and jumped in the water with mask and snorkel, but with tanks on our backs and the dolphins already disappearing into the distance, we decided to slip into the water with our scuba gear and hope for the best.
Descending a few meters we headed in the general direction of the dolphins, not really expecting to see them in the dim twilight. We could hear clicks and whistles, but it sounded very distant. Then suddenly we were surrounded by bottlenose dolphins.
We couldn’t believe it, we had a dozen dolphins around us, and they were in a very playful mood. I knew I couldn’t get any photos with my macro lens, so I lowered the camera and enjoyed the action. One dolphin quickly singled me out and was closely circling me, only one meter away. I could look it in the eye and could see the curious creature staring back at me. Helen also had dolphins circling her, and was getting some great video with her compact camera.
Everywhere we looked there were dolphins zooming around. Some were really focused on us, others were more interested in searching the coral for food, while others just seemed to be playing. It was a magical experience that ended as quickly as it started, and after only a few minutes the dolphins had departed.
After that incredible start to the dive, the night dive could have been an anti-climax, but it ended up being a very nice dive, with cuttlefish, nudibranchs, comets, crabs and many other critters. Returning to the boat the crew informed us that we were extremely lucky as they had never had the dolphins at night before.
The next morning we were ready for more dolphin action, and this time I had the wide angle lens on. The dive brief informed us the best place to see dolphins was in the channel leading into the lagoon, as the dolphins regularly cruise up and down this zone. We quickly made our way into the channel and found it dotted with coral heads in 12m.
However, after twenty minutes of exploring the channel, and no dolphins, we were thinking our luck had changed. We kept straining our necks, looking to the surface and the channel walls, but nothing. Then finally we heard faint clicks and whistles, the dolphins were coming!
We turned around to see an amazing sight, a pod of six bottlenose dolphins swimming up the channel and heading straight for us. Leading the group were a mother and calf, with the other dolphins close on their tails. We watched in awe as the group did a quick swim by and continued up the channel. We were hoping they would come back and circle us, but they were on a mission.
Only a minute later another couple of dolphins came zooming through. They quickly checked us out and then were gone. On the edge of the 20m visibility we could see other dolphins swimming by, all heading in the same direction into the lagoon. Above us were more dolphins travelling at the surface.
Another two small groups charged by us and then they were gone, the parade of dolphins only lasting a few minutes. They might not have come as close or been as curious as the night before, but the encounter was still unforgettable. For the rest of the dive we hope to see more dolphins, but it wasn’t to be.
We had an incredible week exploring Egypt’s Red Sea on Emperor Superior, but those two dives at Dolphin House was an experience we will never forget!
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