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The dolphins of Ponta do Ouro

After our stay in Umkomaas it was time to set out on the long drive to Mozambique. We were aiming for the Kosi Bay border, which took us at least 6 hours to reach. We left our rental car in the lockup and transferred to the other side to meet our pickup. The main goal of this part of the trip was to snorkel with the inshore bottlenose dolphins of the waters around Ponta do Ouro.

The dolphins
We had booked 3 days of dolphin snorkeling with Dolphin Encountours, run by researcher Angie Gullan. The program Angie has set up is apart from interactive by swimming with the dolphins also quite educational with talks (and video's) about these beautiful animals and their behaviour. We were really looking forward to it since our experience with the dolphins of the Azores last year. This time however I was hoping not to drown my camera and luckily I succeeded in keeping it dry. The dolphins encountered around Ponta are typically Inshore bottlenose dolphins, but also Indopacific humpback dolphins and Common dolphins are visitors of these shores. We only got to see the bottle nose variant, which is supposed to be distinctly different from it's offshore relative.

Unfortunately the weather in Ponta witheld us from going out for three trips. Nature allowed us to interact only one time with the dolphins.. Despite this fact we still could see why the program is pretty special and we certainly could recommend going there. Ponta is quite a touristy place (although it is a lot better than for example the mass tourism along the Egyptian coastline) but still has nice wildlife on offer. Angie and her team really know how to work with these dolphins and gather data during the interactions for research as well. Interactions are limited to 2 drops to let the dolphins choose whether they want to interact for a longer time or not. No chasing dolphins is involved here like for example is done on Zanzibar, as I have been told.

Environmental and conservation issues 
One of the main issues for these dolphins, as well as for other marine life, is the possible building of a harbor to unlock Africa's interior for transport of stone coal and other materials. Angie explained that if the construction of this harbor will take place, that the consequences for the marine ecosystem are disastrous. Apart from the direct consequences of construction activities for the harbor also increased boat traffic will have a big effect on the population of dolphins which use echo location (=hearing) as a method of locating their food and enemies. The  increase of tourism and boating in the area must affect these mammals in their foraging movements quite a bit. Sound travels fast underwater let alone the high amount of decibels jetski's emit underwater...
Whether this harbor will be build depends on a few things, amongst which the possible creation of a huge marine reserve along the coast. Angie and here colleagues are working hard to establish this reserve before the plans for the harbor are put into practice. I can imagine that also in this project the Chinese are involved, since they are involved into most if not all construction works in Mozambique. My experience is that most Chinese are more inclined to want to eat wilfdlife than protect it, so they will most likely advocate for this big harbor anyway. With many corrupt officials and a few bribes it could be decided very quickly. We can only hope that this marine reserve will be established soon to prevent such environmental catastrophe from happening.

To close off positively:
In between the interactions with the dolphins the crew lowered a hydrophone in the blue waters to let us listen to the sounds underwater. It was amazing to hear how many humpback whales vocalised in the area. The grunting, singing and whistling was seriously impressive if you ask me. There were so many whales along this Southern African coast I just could not believe it. It seemed to be just a matter of time before we would come very close to them in water as well..

We stayed in the little pension O Lar do Ouro Guest Lodge, which was basic, but just what we needed for our stay. There was a little pool and a bar for drinks.

joostvanuffelen's picture
About the Author:
Joost loves the oceans, travelling and (underwater)photography. Combining those three elements he creates ocean art, travel reports and ocean photo stories...

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