Wild Dolphins of Socorro

March 2006

In April of each year, we bid good-bye to the migrating and mating Humpback Whales, and enjoy the warm water (80 degrees, F) and the return of Whale Sharks to the area for our final two months of the Spring Season at the Socorro Islands.

In recent years, we've noticed a dramatic increase in the number of wild dolphin encounters during April and May. Yes, we see them all the time (which is unusual in itself; most encounters with wild dolphins elsewhere in the world are fleeting, to say the least), but they seem particularly interested in us during this time of year.

It's not too difficult to figure out why! Any one who has watched the behaviors of mating Humpbacks would figure it out in a second. The schools of dolphins surround divers, but many of the dolphins are floating, upside down, and assuming different postures. And, if you swim toward one of the females (who are usually at the center), it would be quite natural for a male to slowly get in front of you, as well.

This is mating season for the dolphins, and much of their behavior underwater mimics that of their much larger mammalian cousins, the great whales.

What's it mean for divers? The schools of dolphins stay with us longer, and don't seem to mind that we're there at all. Swimming and hovering within a school of wild dolphins is one of the best treats in the diving world, and yet we've come to think of it as almost routine during April and May, each year, in Socorro.

Tips? Let the dolphins approach you, and hovering, rather than swimming, gets better results. If you do swim, swim parallel to the dolphins, not directly at them. The "upside down" behavior is simply the males showing off for the females, and is certainly exciting to watch. You'll often hear (and lightly feel, on the back of your neck) the "clicks" of the dolphins (echo-location, actually) before you see them.

This is truly a very, very special "dolphin dance"... Enjoy.

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