Bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) are often seen riding boat wakes or fishing in shallow inshore waters. During one diving trip, seven had been with us all day. Twice we anchored and slipped into the water, and both times, they fled. "Let me try alone," I asked the others.
In an instant, six adults and a juvenile were racing and circling around me. At eye level, I could feel their sonar resounding in my chest and abdomen. Their playful clicking noises seemed to urge, "Can’t you go faster? Can’t you dive deeper?" I did the best I could, awkward land animal that I am, but during that interaction with one of the world’s most marvelous creatures, I was transported to another level of communication and understanding.
Dolphins are highly intelligent by all scientific and anecdotal accounts, and like humans, have a complex social system that we are only beginning to decipher. Dolphin research in Tampa Bay and other locations is, even after many years, only in its infancy.
I have had other dolphin encounters, in the wild and at dolphin sanctuaries, but it’s never been the same as that special day when we were but eight creatures playing in the water together.