Mozambique is well known for its dolphin populations off Ponta do Ouro, Ponta Malongane and Ponta Mamoli, including bottlenose, spinner and spotted dolphins. This makes the region a popular destination for dolphin encounters.
The bottlenose, in particular, is known for its curiosity and interest in humans and anyone who has ever swum with them will attest to a life-changing and moving experience.
Ponta do Ouro has its own resident group of some 250 of these cetaceans and falls within the protected area of the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve. Protocols and strict controls are in place to ensure responsible marine mammal tourism, but visitors must beware of any maverick operators offering dolphin interactions, with little regard for how their actions impact on these creatures.
Visitors tell of being taken out into the ocean with no preparation or snorkelling training, skippers chasing after dolphins with their speedboats or shouting at people to jump overboard straight into a pod.
This causes huge stress among the dolphins; some can get injured in the propellers as they attempt to flee. Mothers and calves can get separated and the youngsters die of starvation or fall victim to predation. The dolphins’ natural social behaviour changes and some become understandably hostile. Eventually they are frightened away from their territories and move into the deep sea.
A reputable and licensed operator will always:
- Educate people about behaviour in the water with dolphins.
- Hold practice snorkelling sessions in swimming pools before allowing people into the sea.
- Educate about dolphin behaviour prior to swims.
- Observe dolphin behaviour from the boat to assess whether a swim is viable. If the dolphins are part of a nursery pod (mothers and calves), if they are resting or if they are exhibiting disinterest, a strict no-swim policy is adhered to.
- Adhere to a strict no-touch policy in the water. Other than respecting that dolphins are wild creatures that should not be touched, humans can also transfer bacteria to them that their immune systems cannot fight.
- Prohibit the chasing of dolphins in the water or with boats and jet skis.
The importance of visitors seeking out only licensed operators cannot be stressed enough. The survival and conservation of the Ponta dolphins depends on it.
The Dolphin Centre
The Dolphin Centre and Dolphin Encountours are two of the licensed, reputable, full-time dolphin operators in Ponta do Ouro that support ethical marine mammal tourism. They have clocked up many years of experience interacting with wild dolphins and are actively involved in their conservation. Both adhere to a strict code of conduct to ensure the well-being of dolphins.
Words: Linda Piegl
Pictures: The Dolphin Centre