For the past several months, southwest Florida has been getting slammed with red tide, a naturally occurring but toxic algal bloom which has devastated marine life in the area. On September 20, 2018, we decided to take a trip to southwest Florida to see for ourselves how red tide had effected the local sealife. We launched our john boat at Placida Park, then headed offshore and drove along the beach of Gasparilla Island, past Boca Grande and a ways down the north end of Cayo Costa.
It was sad witnessing the destruction that red tide had brought to our coast, but as we were idling just off the shore of Cayo Costa, a little light of happiness shone down among the sadness of the red tide. I spotted several dolphin dorsal fins a ways offshore, and we quickly discovered that this was a large pod – there were probably forty or so – and everywhere you looked, there were dorsal fins on every horizon!
I had my attention and camera focused on one “sub-group” in the pod, which consisted of three or four dolphins that were engaged in what appeared to be socializing-like behavior. As we watched them, I captured some photos of behaviors you’ll generally see from socializing dolphins, such as spyhopping, fluke-lifting, rolling and splashing at the surface, etc.
Once, while we were continuing to observe the group, all of the dolphins appeared at the surface, then they all disappeared for a long time. I wondered where they went, hoping that I would spot their fins slicing through the placid water again. Suddenly, I heard a splash, and spun around to see two dolphins flying about eight feet above the surface! They raced right by our boat, continuing to make high leaps above the surface as they headed toward the shore in the distance. They must have breached ten times in a row…it was amazing to watch!
Later, as the action died down in that group, we decided to move on, and began driving northward, back toward Gasparilla Pass. While we were passing by Boca Grande, though, I spotted another dolphin in a breaching frenzy a little further offshore, and of course we stopped to watch! The dolphins were so energetic that day, and there was constant leaping and breaching, including many double breaches!
What an amazing morning this was! This was a very special event that you definitely don’t see everyday, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to capture it through my camera lens!