I think I have a new favourite spot in Atauro Island ❤️
Or maybe that spot favours me? 😀 One can be wishful and fantasize!
Recall my previous post, in which I wrote about my baby whaleshark encounter on the last day of 2016, and how this occurred on our house reef. Well, exactly two weeks later, on 14th January, I was blessed with yet another magical encounter in pretty much the very same spot!
I was out for work on Atauro Island as usual, but not diving this time – my day’s assignment was as a snorkel guide for a couple who had signed up for a snorkelling day trip. I took them to one of the outer reefs to start off with, and we had a good 30-minutes’ swim around the top of that reef when the tides started to come in, which made for strong currents. So I got us all back onto the boat, and decided to head towards our house reef so that we can have another hour or so of snorkelling where it was a bit more protected from the pull of surface current.
We were swimming along, me in the lead and guiding, my face in the water looking for special reef life to point out to my customers, when my ears picked up the sound of dolphin chatter in the water. We hear dolphin squeaks and whistles whilst diving quite often, usually quite distant, as sound travels really well in water so you could hear them even if they are miles and miles away. This time however the sounds were fairly loud, so I popped my head above the water-line in order to see if I could spot if the animals making those sounds were maybe milling about nearby…. AND TO MY INTENSE PLEASURE, THEY WERE PRETTY MUCH RIGHT NEXT TO US!
As soon as I saw them, the closest individuals merely about 100m away from us, I knew these were the resident pod of more than 100 melon-headed whales who hang around the island. We would see them from time to time, but I’ve only ever seen them during our boat rides, so having them show up whilst we were in the water was a huge thrill! These melon-headed whales aren’t as playful and inquisitive as the spinner dolphins that we also get around the area – these guys are more shy, they don’t like boats as much and would swim away or dive down whenever they see humans and boats approaching. Knowing this, I quietly got the attention of my customers, excitedly said “Guys, look to your left! We’ve got some awesome friends in the water with us!”, and got them to slowly and gently swim and make our way closer to the pod, so as not to freak the dolphins out.
The huge pod was merely resting at the surface, and were quite relaxed about us approaching, as there was nobody else around. They did slowly inch away if we got too close though, but none attempted to abandon the area entirely. So we managed to get to about 60-70m away from the closest individuals, and we just floated there in the water, listening to them breathe. It was so magical!! The sounds of them inhaling and exhaling, and their clicks, and watching them spy-hop to take in their surroundings (they were watching us too I guess! 😄). Two of them close to us did quite a lot of tail-slaps, maybe as a way of communicating to the others in the pod of our presence – hopefully also saying that we weren’t dangerous! Once in a while I would pop my face back in the water, where I could see some of the ones that were submerged and swimming deeper, and listen to the beautiful sounds the pod was making from their whistles, cackles, squeaks, and chirps.
It was literally music to my ears – some of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard in nature!
We stayed there for a good 10-15 minutes just absorbing all of this wonder around us, before we headed back to the boat and went to our Beach House for some lunch. It is not every day that one gets to be surrounded by hundreds of wildlife in their natural element, and once again it made me feel so loved by the ocean ❤️. Needless to say I had the biggest smile plastered on my face for the rest of the day!
Soundtrack: Minus The Bear – Invisible
Mood: Semi-high on paint fumes
Location: Dili, Timor-Leste
Random thought: This amazing fact: Reason behind why almost every barn you see is painted red, lies behind the chemistry of dying stars!