World Dolphin Day

While most people don’t know it, April 14th is World Dolphin Day – a day for us to celebrate one of Earths most intellectual and best loved creatures. These majestic mammals can be found throughout the world, and there are 40 known species. Bunaken Marine Park is famed for its exceptionally diverse coral reefs, seemingly bottomless walls, and an unusually high number of resident turtles, however, if you head out into the deep trenches between the islands, you will find there is more to this National Park than just reef dwellers.

Dolphins are group of marine mammals placed in the order Cetacea, which includes close relatives such as porpoises –which are frequently confused with dolphins – and whales. The deep waters found not only throughout Bunaken Marine Park, but also much of Indonesia, are home to many different species of Cetacean, but as today is World Dolphin Day, we will just be focusing on the dolphins.

Members of the dolphin family tend to live together in large groups – known as pods. They are highly social animals, and these pods can be any size from a handful of individuals, to superpods where a group may be made up of over 1,000 dolphins and often include multiple species. Although they can come and go from a pod as they choose, dolphins form strong social bonds others, and will often help the sick or injured by gathering food for them or even helping them stay at the surface to breathe. This selfless behaviour does not only extend to members of their own species either. There have been accounts of dolphins protecting humans from sharks by circling them or charging an aggressive acting shark, and other accounts of dolphins helping other cetacean species who are stranded in shallow water.

Dolphins are well known for their acrobatic displays of jumping high out of the water, and sometimes even doing flips. While all dolphin species can jump, some are more acrobatic than others. This jumping and flipping might look like just a bit of fun to us, but it actually serves some important purposes. Because air is much less dense than water, jumping can actually save the dolphins energy by reducing friction. Another reason is so the dolphins can orientate themselves with close by land masses, and the impact of landing can help dislodge parasites. Although the jumps do serve many purposes, they also do it for fun, along with other forms of entertainment such as self-made bubble rings and playing with their food.

We are lucky to have a large number of dolphin species within close range, and sometimes they even pass directly in front of Siladen Resort & Spa. The most common encounters we have is with long nosed spinner dolphins, which are famed for their pod size – we often see over 200 dolphins together – and their aerial displays. Other species we can find within Bunaken Marine park include; common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Fraser’s dolphin and Risso’s dolphin, although the latter two are very shy so much less commonly spotted.

There are other species of dolphin living within the waters surrounding Bunaken, although most people tend not to think of them as dolphins because of the word “whale” in their name. Short finned pilot whales are actually a species of oceanic dolphin, and they are frequently spotted around this area, especially in Manado Bay.

Bunaken National Park is also home to the largest species of dolphin, the Orca – or more commonly known as killer whale – which can reach an impressive ten metres in length. Although sightings are relatively uncommon, it is not unheard of for the characteristically upright fin of an orca to surface near Siladen, and sightings are often reported from boats crossing from Bunaken to the North Sulawesi mainland. Possibly the most special dolphin encounter we have had is when our boat found a pair of extremely rare and poorly documented Pygmy Killer Whales, which are the smallest dolphin species to have the word “whale” in their name, reaching a maximum length of only two metres.

At Siladen Resort & Spa, aside from diving and snorkelling, we offer a number of excursions and trips. Although trips such as our Tangkoko nature reserve and Volcano trekking are popular, our most loved excursion has to be Dolphin Watching. We head out at 7:30 in the morning – as this is when the dolphins are most active – and head north to try and find one of the large resident pods of spinner dolphins. Although the spinners are the most commonly spotted, we often get to see common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales. After we have spent some time observing the dolphins in their natural habitat, we continue onward to Bunaken to one of our most beautiful coral reefs for a spot of snorkelling. Remember, this is the wild, so although we almost always find the dolphins (nine times out of ten), we can never guarantee them.

If you are staying with us this April, why not celebrate dolphin day in style and join us on our dolphin tour. If you don’t want to miss out on a morning of diving, don’t worry. Your dive guide can join the boat and after you have been dolphin watching, you can go for a dive instead of snorkelling.