Dolphins in Maori Bay

Dusky dolphins in Maori Bay

One Saturday in late October last year we went out to Maori Bay in the hope of a dive on either the SS Maori or BOS 400 wreck. Unfortunately the swell was huge and moving directly into Maori Bay, and the water was green from a developing algal bloom (but still freezing cold). We decided not to dive – the conditions just weren’t good enough.

Dolphins in Maori Bay
Dolphins in Maori Bay

While we were still in Maori Bay, discussing our options and checking out the conditions, a pod of dusky dolphins arrived from somewhere north of us, and surrounded the boat. The engines were off and all we could hear was the dolphins’ breath sounds, and the swell slapping on the sides of the boat and breaking slightly on the rocks at the edge of the bay. We sat watching the dolphins for some time. They were playful and very curious, coming close to the boat and filling the bay. There were at least 30 dolphins, perhaps as many as 50. They weren’t on their way anywhere, just milling around.


After quite a while, because the dolphins were so calm and curious, we slipped over the side of the boat to see if they’d like to take a look at us in the water. They did want to. The four of us (Tony was in his drysuit, which isn’t really suitable for snorkeling, so he stayed on the boat with skipper Mark) floated around the boat on snorkel, and the dolphins approached us repeatedly, often swimming in pairs or threes. The water wasn’t too clear so they approached as ghostly shapes in the gloom and then materialised a few metres from us. They’d look at us, and then swim by. We could hear them clicking under the water.

The conditions were far from ideal – you can see how large the swell was and how green the water in the video – but we loved spending time with these animals. They came very close, sometimes closer than arm’s length, but they didn’t touch us (and we didn’t touch them). This was a very unusual encounter. When the boys got out of the water, Odette and I stayed in for a bit, and the dolphins came even closer.

We have seen dolphins on both the False Bay and Atlantic sides of the peninsula. The pods of dolphins we’ve seen in False Bay are usually hunting or on their way somewhere (and are usually long beaked common dolphins). This was the first time I’ve seen dolphins who didn’t seem to have anything particular to do at that moment.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.