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Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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Thursday, 18th July

This is the report of a 5-day trip to Fanore of two Belgians, interested in whale-watching for 5 years : Grégor Chapelle (28) and Gaëtan Vanloqueren (24). The goal of that trip was, of course, to meet Dusty. They swam with her four times, around 2-3 hours each time, and tried to interact with her as much as possible: playing new games with new things as they had read that Dusty was interested by new “games” and new things. At home, they are involved in Hydrojeunes, a Belgian association organising sailing trips in the French-part of the Mediterranean Sea with teens having difficulties with their families, school, etc. These whale-watching oriented sailing trips are part of a greater long-term, social and ecological project with the teens and their animators. See for more details.

They swam with Dusty from Thursday the 18th of July until Monday the 22nd so make sure you read their other accounts.

We arrived in Fanore around 6 p.m. The weather was partly cloudy and two people leaving the place advised us to walk to a small beach located 300 meters from the parking place, where Dusty was swimming with a few people. Two swimmers with wetsuits were playing with her while a few people standing at shallow places near the beach, were waiting for her to come near them.

We put our wetsuits, flippers and snorkel on and entered the water. It didn’t take long to Dusty to come around each of us, while she was swimming from one person to the other (about 8 people in the water). As we were very excited of this rapid very close encounter, we started to take underwater pictures with a small camera: but the dolphin was often too close so it was impossible to take the picture. Gaëtan then swam with one of Gregor’s yellow-coloured flippers in my left hand, swimming softly then quite rapidly. Dusty seemed very interested by it and swam between the yellow fin and me, so close that I could see her eye at about 10 cm. I was wondering what she could see of mine inside my diver’s mask! She also swam with Grégor and the other two swimmers, while the people on the beach were waiting. Thus, we decided to get back near the beach so Dusty would follow us and go towards the kids. One little girl in a pink swimming suit was very pleased with that (she could touch the dolphin each time) and went further in the water. We then gave our masks to the kids and their father so they could see her underwater.

To catch her attention, we acted as though we were building something underwater: we got together two dozens of rocks. Dusty came once to watch our game but wasn’t very interested. She swam with the other people. Another thing we did was blow in the snorkel, making bubbles in the water. Dusty came and made bubbles a few times in front of Grégor!

After an hour or more, all the people left. The three of us (Grégor, Gaëtan and Dusty) stayed in the water. Grégor got his diving belt (a black belt with three yellow-covered lead weights, weighing around 6 kilos) and started to play with it. Dusty was very interested by the belt! She watched it very closely, and would come close to Grégor so he could putt the belt on her beak and on her melon. At first, she never kept the belt on her but then she went under the belt. Grégor’s feeling at that moment was that she was saying “Put it on my back like you put it around your body!”. Then, to have a better interaction with her, Grégor tried new things, like letting the belt fall on the bottom (3-5 meters deep). Dusty went watching the belt on the bottom several times. Then Grégor would dive to get it back, play again and let it fall again. Then, the belt felt in the algae, at around 4-5 meters. Dusty went looking after it, looking in the algae with her beak at least twice then went back at the surface in order to breathe. Grégor took advantage of this time to dive (thinking maybe Dusty would take away the belt) but Dusty took a quick breath and rapidly dove again, took the belt with her beak and went far away with it. We then decided to swim after her to let her know we wanted the belt back. She was swimming towards the rocky place near the road (precisely in the direction of a red buoy). Several times, she came near us but she didn’t have the belt on her. Then she went again, but came back again with the belt! She had left it somewhere and would get it to show us that she still had it! Then, after a long swim (15-20 minutes ?) in that direction, we saw the belt on the bottom (8 meters?). Grégor dived to get it back but, with a wetsuit on and no belt, diving is a lot more difficult. Dusty pushed him away from the belt while he was a few meters to the belt. So he let himself get back to the surface quietly and saw her swimming rapidly and vertically straight to the surface. She jumped vertically. We swam after her again for a time, seeing the belt on her once again but we were getting tired and the weather was getting bad. So we swam back to the beach. We had spent three hours in the water and Dusty never brought the belt back!

Date Posted: 18/07/2002
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