Dolphins - Bimini Story
Further discoveries awaited me beneath Bimini's brilliant water. Some 500 yards out from Paradise Point (marking the island's halfway point), one can see 'The Three Sisters'-three jutting rocky outcrops, harboring coral reefs and myriad species of tropical fish.
Exploring the busy undersea metropolis, banded butterfly fish, blue and yellow tangs, trigger fish, and even a rather rotund and comical puffer fish, paraded before me, but the incontestable stars of the show were the large midnight parrot fish, flaunting striking coloration of vividly illuminated electric blue.
Just north of 'The Three Sisters,' in only 20 feet of water lay the famous 'Road of Atlantis'-huge stones, some estimated at 15 tons, forming a sort of path-like pattern along the sea floor. Some insist it is merely a curious natural formation while others maintain these are the sunken megalithic ruins of the lost city of Atlantis. Thus far, it seems neither theory has yet to be proven incontestably, but either way, these underwater wonders were very much worth seeing.
But there was yet another of Bimini's marine treasures beckoning to me. Wild Dolphins!
Our host was Captain Geoff Hanan, an imposing wooly giant of a man with an intimate understanding of Bimini's waters. Being a superb free diver, he's been engaging the Bimini dolphins for over thirty years. Geoff's knowledge, competence, ease on the water, and inclination to laugh often and resoundingly make him the perfect guide. .
Our boat was a fifty foot live-aboard trimaran (a triple hulled sailboat, known for its supreme stability), with all the amenities, named 'Calypso Spirit'.
I adore sailing-a sun drenched life calling keenly to me from the nourishing nimbus of the tropical latitudes. Unencumbered by any landmass, we skimmed over the ocean's rending aqua spectrum, seeking our elusive quarry under appaloosa skies. This was my own private version of heaven and I reveled in it all.
Ploughing through the gorgeous turquoise waves, I kept a lookout for any sign of dolphins, over the brilliant water. We were patrolling the sandy shallows at the western edge of the Great Bahamas Banks and at last, there they were! Bursting from the water and skipping over the sea like polished stones-Dolphins! Gazing down, I watched them weaving flawless glissandos as they rode the bow waves.
And then one of them turned on his gleaming side to look at me. It happens now and again; the eyes of two creatures from different worlds meet and somehow there is a feeling of recognition and affinity. A very real exchange, defying all dissection.
It was glorious, watching the dolphins caressing each other avidly, so enjoying their element, the afternoon and each other-I longed to be one among them.
With crescendoing pulses, we readied our masks and fins for submersion, unable to take our eyes from the sparkling shadows waiting for us just below. At last, cut adrift in the sea's tepid azure, I glanced up to see two dolphins gliding towards me, mirroring one another in faultless symmetry. In moments I found myself smoothly encapsulated.
The enchantment was instant, their grace consummate. But there was more to it than that: It was the candor of contact with those eyes of theirs, at once exact and ineffable. Too soon, they went slipping away between the wandering sunbeams, leaving me wondering in their wake.
Yet those moments shared between us remained brilliant, and though fleeting, their passage had imparted me with an aqueous afterglow. And I wasn't the only one.
Early on in life, these Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) rather resemble the more familiar bottlenose dolphin (tursiops truncatus), being a burnished silvery gray color, though smaller and more slender. However, by the age of three, they begin to collect their speckles, until as fully-fledged adults, at around 15 years or so, they are so peppered with spots that they begin to fuse together. This sort of natural age-color-coding made it relatively easy to gage the general age of the dolphins visiting with us.
I recognized the dolphin who arced over to collect me during the next swim as a yearling. An excitable little thing, whirling me around in a circling, mirthful dance, whistling like mad and even leaping from the waters, to evoke bubbles of laughter! Then, the moment over, my flighty companion was off to dizzy the others in our group.
Apparently, the adult dolphin in charge of this little ball of energy decided things were getting a little too carried away, and began making agile attempts to corral the youngster. The little baby dolphin made every effort to evade its guardian's solicitous maneuvers, all the while swimming saucily upside down!
The other dolphins gliding along in pairs, appeared far more serene, rubbing pectoral fins with their partners (as if 'holding hands') while emitting little chirps and wavering whistles.
Amazingly, they allowed me to cruise quietly among them, gazing into their impossible eyes. As their formation loosened, they began to weave amongst each other, remaining so close I thought I might bump my nose on their dorsal fins each time one crossed before me. I could hardly believe their complete ease and confidence traveling so near beside me.
Their sunny, silken sides were close enough to touch-but I knew that would be an unconscionable breach of their trust. 'Look, but don't touch!' being the all-important catch phrase. As guests in their ocean home, respect and consideration were of prime importance. Grabbing at or chasing after these wild animals would be difficult to construe as anything other than rude and intrusive, and at such an affront, they would likely make an immediate exit from the scene-thereby cheapening everyone experience.
So no matter how nebulously near they came to me, I never forgot that I was here merely as a courteous and benign observer in these dolphins' lives. That completely wild creatures might approach us at all, let alone with such friendly curiosity, was in itself a kind of miracle.
Swift and easily bored, it wasn't always easy to attract and keep the dolphins' attention, and new tactics were needed. Towlines were tossed out behind the boat, to pull us along, and in this way, offer them our company with the added bonus of some speed!
It was a marvelous way to travel the sea, effortlessly gliding over the sandy sea floor, with the sunlight dancing over the occasional starfish. The ocean was calm and crystal clear, the depth only about 30 feet and the sky overhead an immaculate blue. Everything was perfect.
Like a kitten to string, the dolphins were indeed drawn to investigate, first three appearing, then five, then seven-until there were about 15 dolphins of all sizes crowding all around and peering at us! A robust, darkly spotted dolphin came up on my left side. Our eyes met and held. Every detail, down the least scratch was visible on his sun-rippled skin. He traveled smoothly, hardly seeming to swim, the water's drag (of which I was all too aware) imperceptible on him. Still gazing, we nodded together as we swam, and combined with the (relative) speed at which we traveled, his proximity lent a very dolphin-to-dolphin feel to the encounter. It was a true moment of mutual communion.
The dolphins grew quiet with the heat of the afternoon, and Captain Geoff took us out in this 20-foot zodiac, 'Tender Spirit.' Well attuned to their moods, and whereabouts, we soon found ourselves among a sprawling group of perhaps 15 dolphins.
We remained in the Tender Spirit, the quiescent water affording us perfect viewing, up to the least languid caress one dolphin bestowed upon another. Except for an excitable and curious infant with a shell-pink flushed underside, the dolphins continued a sedate pace, socializing amongst themselves, while allowing us to travel among them for over ? hour!
I will never forget the silence as we drifted with them, no sound over the sea, except the soft whispers as the dolphins surfaced offering plumed exhalations to the sky all around us. Watching them, I was drawn past all commentary and into pure delight of being.
There was one last swim, before our time among the Bimini dolphins was done. In the early evening light, a pair flanked me, their eyes on mine. Nothing to say, just sharing the smoothness of movement and breath. I dove and they joined me in a cloudy helix, I the eye, of a dolphin cyclone; a flurry of kind, speckled faces. They began to move deeper into the water column, and as much as I wished to follow, my lungs demanded that I surface and gasp for breath.
The dolphins trickled away, slowly fading into the jeweled water, and in a swoon I lay upon the ocean, brimming with joy and thanks, ringing with their remembered proximity.
Back on board, sailing home towards Bimini's warm embrace, we watched the sun's golden orb transform into a slithering sun dance over the water until dusk slowly captured the sea's colors. My euphoria did not fade with the coming of night, nor even as I drifted into dreams, rocked by the island's tender waters beneath a billion burning stars.
A guests personal story on Bimin and the Dolphins
We have been blessed with many guests that have the ability to express their thoughts and feelings in writing--the following is an article that was submitted to 'Islands' magizine for publication,and was kindly sent to me to read..
Many people seek information about Bimini and our wild dolphin swims--This article covers Bimini and the dolphin trip through the writers eyes and words.
The first part is on Bimini and the second part are her dolphin experiences.
Leah Lemieux is the author of this story--I thank her for sharing her story with me and allowing me to share it with you.The article is long,but I feel,well worth reading.
BIMINI'S SECRET SEAS
The perfect getaway spot isn't as far away as you might think. Just 50 miles east of Miami, across the Gulf Stream, lies a tiny jewel of an island known as Bimini. Part of the Bahamas, Bimini actually consists of two diminutive islands, reclining close together: Well known to sport fishermen for its billfish tournaments, North Bimini is home to the majority of the islands' 1,600 residents. South Bimini boasts an airstrip, shark research station and little else.
Just over seven miles long, North Bimini is no more than 400 yards at its widest point. This means that most islanders have little use for cars-welcome news for those who live and work in large, traffic-congested cities. While many destinations are within easy walking distance, the island's two narrow main roads are commonly (and endearingly) navigated via bicycle or golf cart.
Bimini's western coast is one long stretch of beautiful pearly white sand beach and approaching from the air the splendor of the isle's surrounding waters was breathtaking. Our tiny 15-passenger plane had an added attribute, being amphibious and after circling the corona of Caribbean blues, we enjoyed a smooth landing right in the tourmaline waters of Bimini harbor!
I have always loved the Bahamas, not only for their endless stretches of world-class beaches and heavenly clear waters, but also because of the warm, friendly nature of the Bahamians themselves. Exchanging the hectic chaos of big city life for Bahamian 'island time' is almost instantaneously relaxing, and I found this especially true in Bimini. There is an unmistakable charm in a place where people so often take the time to drawl out a cheerful 'Gooood morn'in!' to strangers and neighbors alike, in that voluptuous Bahamian lilt. Smiles come easy on this island.
The main hub of island life centers on the timeless village and harbors of Alice Town. The Complete Angler Hotel, situated centrally, is an integral part of Bimini in both a current and historical way. The edifice exudes well-worn character, even to the dark, richly varnished wood that panels much of the interior. Island history is, quite literally a part of the place, as the walls are liberally plastered with memorabilia and ancient photographs. This was one of Ernest Hemingway's favored retreats and he was said to have wrote 'Islands in the Steam' at the Angler in the 1930s where he is still remembered as much for his brawling as for his fishing exploits.
Much of Alice Town's nightlife revolves around the Angler which features, live music, a game of ring toss, Bahamian Kalik beer and of course, an unhurried balmy atmosphere. Outside, huge gnarled trees hang over the courtyard bar and old style wrap-around porch, where tree frogs trill over the bar's cheerful din.
Being a crossroads of sorts, all manner of folks from far-flung destinations can be found mingling in Bimini. Sport fishermen from Florida, island hoppers from deeper south in the Caribbean, retired yachters from Europe, divers, treasure hunters, grizzled salty dogs, and people like myself-seeking the perfect out of the way place to just relax and explore.
The Red Lion Pub & Restaurant, its doors emblazoned with namesake Tudor images, served a savory dinner of baked grouper over peas on rice with conch fritters-all classic Bahamian dishes. French toast made with sweet Bimini bread at Captain's Bob's restaurant was a delicious must for breakfast.