swimming with dolphins in the turks and caicos

Growing up in England, it was always a big deal on family summer holidays to go out on a boat tour, pass around a pair of binoculars, and try hard to spot a distant splash or outline of a jumping dolphin. I remember the rush and squeal of excitement when locking eyes on this sort of activity, like it was a secret the ocean was letting us in on.

A Totally Different Experience

The experience I had recently with Big Blue Collective, was something else entirely! I knew dolphin encounters were common here, but the proximity, clarity of visibility, length of time in the warm waters and dream-like interaction with these incredible creatures was incomparable.

On a late August afternoon, my partner and I set off from Leeward settlement, aboard ‘Little Chill’ boat, lucky enough to have Big Blue Collective owner, captain, free diver and photographer, Philip Shearer, as our own private snorkel guide. He had chosen the trip time in accordance with the weather and the tide, so we were blessed with calm, turquoise flat-water conditions. This meant we not only had a smooth journey but could see right through the water and it was easy for our eyes to scan across the glittering surface for any movement.

Playful Dolphins

We learnt that the wake of the boat waves can spark dolphin’s playfulness and curiosity, so we kept a lookout at the back of the boat. Much to our delight, we soon had company! Two shiny smooth grey rubber dolphins were diving in and out alongside us which Philip identified as well known and loved Scooter, and her mother Bo.

I quickly pulled my snorkel gear on and sat on the back of the boat waiting for Philip to cut the engines and give the go ahead. With a nervous and excited anticipation, I slowly slinked underwater and remained floating there, transfixed with wonder. What beautiful creatures!

We had been briefed not to swim towards the dolphins or touch them, making it clear the interaction was to be completely on their terms, allowing them to behave naturally. I was surprised by their confidence, swimming so close to me, inspecting me with their intelligent eyes and was very grateful for the crystal-clear water allowing me to see every enchanting detail.

After this initial introduction mummy Bo, seemed to hang back a little, as though she had given approval for Scooter to play on her own, while she supervised from the outskirts. Scooter was incredibly inquisitive and lively, displaying endless energy as she swirled around me, with such graceful effortless agility. Philip handed me a little black leaf from the sandy shallows to shake around, which really got Scooter’s attention, like a toddler playing with a rattle.

An hour or so later, Bo swam over and they both disappeared off into the turquoise, as if they had other plans for the rest of the day. I surfaced, speechless at what had unfolded, assuming that it was over and time to get out the water, however Philip gave us the option to stay if we wanted as he thought they would likely reappear. How right he was! His knowledge and flexibility really made this trip spectacular.

This time Scooter seemed fascinated by my green fins and was diving down, nudging them with his beaklike snout. I wondered if he liked the feel or colour of them, or perhaps was just mocking me for needing such apparatus to swim.

To make things even more dream-like, a sting ray suddenly swooshed into view and Scooter started chasing after it, trying to bite the end of its tail!  After the ray glided off, Scooter joined Bo’s side once again, heading off into the distance with a heart-warming sense of togetherness and unity.  It was fascinating how they coordinated, and I wondered what was keeping them interested enough as they swam back to us a couple more times before leaving us for good this time.

For anyone wanting to learn about these beautiful creatures and see them in the wild, I strongly recommend talking with Big Blue Collective who not only will tailor an epic adventure for you at the right time and place, but who are clearly extremely passionate about the animals, environment and doing things in the right, ethical way so you can relax in their experienced, safe, kind hands.

August 2021, Katie.