Eye to Eye with a Dolphin


told by Emma (visiting biologist from Cambridge University)

Like many people, seeing dolphins was a bucket list experience for me, so on my first boat trip I was really only interested in one thing! Despite all my efforts scanning the horizon, my wildlife spotting skills were (of course) no match for the locals’; Chaney, the tico driving our boat, spotted some dolphins well before I did.

This was my first ever dolphin sighting - 3 bottlenoses were swimming past. By Golfo Dulce standards, this encounter might not be considered particularly exciting (the dolphins weren’t feeling playful), but for me this didn’t matter at all. The water around us was so calm that it was reflecting the trees and the sky, and I could hear the dolphins blowing air as they passed. I felt incredibly lucky to even be so close to such a beautiful animal.

Only a week later, I got an even more special experience – a playful dolphin. On our way to a snorkelling trip, a bottlenose decided to show off, flashing its belly as it kept pace with the boat, and jumping in the waves created at the front of the boat. What made this experience for me was how close we were to the dolphin; leaning over the front of the boat (trying desperately not to drop my phone in the water!) it felt like I was almost close enough to touch it. I have been on whale-watching trips before and, whilst I loved seeing the whales, I was very aware of the 50 other people on our large boat. People jostling each other to try and take photos can really affect the atmosphere! Here though, on a small boat with only a handful of people, the encounters really feel more intimate and personal. 

Even after several more encounters I am still scanning the horizon every time we are out on the water in the hope of seeing the dolphins again! It is definitely an experience that will never get old; my dolphin sightings have without a doubt been the highlight of my stay for me – there is just something so very special about them.

Simon Mezzanotte