Getting away in my own backyard: The South West

  Since my return home two months ago, my wanderlust has not slowed, slackened or subsided in the slightest.  I have been restricted in my travels thanks to my pitiful bank account and uni commitments limiting my time. So I have … Continue reading

New Species of Dolphin Found in Australia

Article from National Geographic: New Species of Dolphin Found in Australia These funny-looking, recently discovered dolphins, remind me of Jop, my adopted dolphin from Veli Losinj: Left:  Jop, the deformed bottle-nose dolphin swimming with other bottle-nose dolphin near Losinj, Croatia … Continue reading

My 20th Birthday

Unfortunately my birthday was not the dolphin filled day I had expected.  As it was the leaving day of the program , it was not a working day and even if it had been the broken camera would’ve prevented us … Continue reading

Famous

On Wednesday our little project was visited by a documentary film crew.  Peter Stromberger and his team from Redaktion Production, based in Salzburg Austria, were filing a documentary on sailing along the Croatian coast and wanted to include Blue World’s  … Continue reading

Our role as volunteers

Now is probably a good time to explain the research part of the program.  The project uses ‘photographic-identification’ to log the numbers, behaviour and travel patterns of the dolphins within the research area.  Basically this photographic-identification consists of taking photographs … Continue reading

Day One – Dolphin Count: 11

DSCN0524

19th August

Today I met the researchers and volunteers from the dolphin research program, who I will be living and working with for the next 12 day.  There is only one other volunteer, they take up to six volunteers at a time but this time frame mustn’t be a very popular time.  Hopefully this means it will be a bit more hands on.  The other volunteer is Michele (pronounced Mikela, but we call him Mike) an adventurous, 36 year old industrial engineer from Helsinki, Finland.  He is traveling alone as his girlfriend was working and none of his friends were interested in dolphins.  Today was the first day he’d seen dolphins; apparently they don’t like the icy cold waters of Finland… I don’t blame them.

I am the first Australian they’ve had in 6 years, most volunteers are from Europe, the US and Canada.  There is a student, Stephanie, from the US writing her master’s thesis on the resident dolphins within the program’s study area.  She also lives with us and bunks in our room, but she is leaving Wednesday unfortunately.

We headed out on the boat with two of the researchers, Marco and Tihana, pretty soon after we arrived.  Usually the first day is left for relaxing and settling in, but as there was just the two of us and we were told the seas may be too rough to go out for the next couple of days, so we packed up the boat and set off.  Which suited us well as we were both eager to see some dolphins.

We were powering along in the boat for about half an hour before Marco pointed out some splashing in the distance and as we got closer I could make out a black fin and the distinctive curved back of a dolphin. They recognised the dolphin as Kreso.  The team have names for over 30 of the dolphins based in the area.  We watched him diving and feeding on white fish – Marco said Kreso had good taste, he said the local white fish is the most expensive in the area.  He and Tihana joked that Kreso was keeping his feeding spot a secret and enjoying his find in peace.

Kriso

It was such an incredible moment watching him feeding, twisting and diving down into the water.  I’ve been planning and waiting for this trip for so long and dreaming about seeing dolphins, it was surreal now watching it in the flesh.  We watched Kreso for over half an hour (the researchers must observe and record each dolphin sighting for at least 30 minutes).  I forget how big they actually are!  When seeing dolphins in Perth, I’ve only caught a glimpse of them as they swim past when I’m surfing or only watched them from the shore, but when you get the chance to watch them swimming around up close, for over half an hour, you get a much better concept of their size.  Tihana said they could grow up to 3 meters!

I must invest in some polaroid sunglasses, Marco was wearing some and said they gave him x-ray like vision through the perfect blue water.  He would give us a running commentary as the dolphin came up to surface so we all knew where to point out camera as he came up for air.

Island Beach

We stopped for lunch and a swim at this beautiful beach on a small non-inhabited island.  The water was impeccably clear, unfortunately there wasn’t much to see except sand, but wading through the crystal clear water and the feeling of the salt water in my hair was enough to keep me blissed.

On the way home Tihana got a call from a local fisherman who had spotted a pod of dolphins just outside the town’s harbour.  As we got to the mouth of the harbour dolphins were popping up all over the place.  It was hard to count them with so many, all scattered in different directions, but the researchers could recognise most of the individual dolphins in the group and counted 10!  There was a mother and her calf among the group, it was so cute watching them come up for air in tandem, the calf never left its mother’s side.  Once the little calf launched its whole body into the air, it was so cute and so much smaller in comparison to the adults.  The dolphins hung around for about 45 minutes drawing eight boats of curious tourists, including a huge tourist ship.  I will tell you of our roles during the sightings in my next post – its not just sitting back and watching, although sometime I do get caught up in their beauty and forget to do my part of the work, but I think that happens to everyone on their first sightings.

Pod of 10

Veli Losinj is not a place to visit on your own, especially if you can’t speak Croatian.  I went out for a drink alone yesterday evening, when everyone else was out of the house doing whatever they were doing.  I sat at a bar table for over an hour looking over the harbour and not one person came and spoke to m.  There were countless people walking by and a handful of other sitting by themselves – although I could tell that for every one of them English was not their first language.  It was so different to a bar in Australia or Austria or anywhere else I have been, where the moment you sit down there’s at least one person who will approach you.  Although it was nice for that afternoon, after a long day out on the boat I don’t think I was really up to talking but I wouldn’t be able to do that night after night if I had come here alone rather than through the dolphin program.  Stephanie said she’d often felt lonely here, isolated by the language barrier – the Croatians may know English but some of them aren’t too happy to speak it, and most of the tourists are European family or friend groups, I haven’t seen any other young solo travellers.

It seems I won’t be able to post as often as I would like, I only had the chance to write this up today because it was too rough to go out so we helped out in the research centre and had some time to relax.  I pretty much collapsed onto my bed after we got back from the sea – who knew you could get so exhausted just sitting on a boat and watching dolphins!!