Regarded as one of Earth’s most intelligent animals, dolphins are also highly sociable. This is something I experienced first hand when swimming with wild dolphins in Mauritius.
As an ocean lover, nothing fills me with more joy than diving under the surface and seeing the wildlife in their natural habitat. On the West Coast of Mauritius around Tamarin Bay, I set off in the early hours of the morning for my chance to swim with some dolphins.
I am told that the dolphin species in Mauritius that are most commonly seen are the Bottlenose and Spinner dolphins and this area was a hotspot to find them as they make their way to deeper waters around Le Morne peninsula to feed.
The Bottlenose dolphins are often seen in and around Mauritius and these are probably the dolphins you will come across on a dolphin excursion. They are grey and tend to be 2-4m in length and weigh anything from 150kgs to 650kg. While they can be spotted in pods with as few as 15 individual dolphins, they can also be found in pods with dolphins in the thousands. These wonderfully jovial animals feed primarily on small fish species, found in the deeper waters around Mauritius.
In contrast, Spinner dolphins boast a darker grey colour with particularly dark patches around the tail, on the back and near the neck. Spinner dolphins typically have a cream-coloured area around their stomachs, but this can differ quite a bit from one dolphin to the next. They are a little smaller than the Bottlenose species measuring between 130cm to 240cm and they can weigh up to 78kg.
I was hosted by LUX* Le Morne in the resort’s speedboat, so arriving at this hotspot was a fast but stunningly scenic journey. From the water, looking back at the coast, you can see the rugged beauty of this mountainous coast. My line of sight quickly shifted from the shoreline to the horizon as it was broken by a dolphin jumping clear of the water.
“Spinner dolphins,” my guide exclaims, pointing in the direction of the dolphins. I put my fins on and prepped myself on the side of the boat, ready for the signal to jump in. Before entering the water, I was given a comprehensive briefing that covered the procedure for swimming with dolphins, the normal habits of wild dolphins, safety measures on board, what types of dolphins and other marine life that you may encounter and guidelines for sustainable dolphin experiences.
The time had come, I dived over the side of the boat and into the deep warm blue of the Indian Ocean. Below me, I instantly saw a large and very fast-moving pod of spinner dolphins, defined by their characteristically big fins and dark, long and thin beaks. As they darted around the water beneath me, they chittered away with squeak and squeals. The show then continued above the water as they graced me with their extraordinary acrobatic shows for which they have become well known.
Moving quickly, it is hard swimming flat out to keep up with the pod and before long, they have disappeared. I climbed back into the boat and we moved around to where the pod resurfaced again before diving back in again.
It is important to remember that these are wild animals and a sighting is never guaranteed. It also means that you have to be respectful of the animals. No touching or feeding of the dolphins is allowed and boats need to keep their distance and avoid crowding the dolphins.
If you want to swim with the wild dolphins in Mauritius, you can do so by staying at the LUX* Le Morne and booking a guided dolphin tour with the resort at www.luxresorts.com/en/hotel-mauritius/luxlemorne