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Dolphins in Delaware - not quite a freediving story

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Mmm... Freediving
Jan 12, 2004
I had a pretty cool morning. I went with my sister and brother-in-law to Herring Point within Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. They go there pretty often and told me that there are frequently dolphins not too far off the beach in the AM.

We parked on a small hill overlooking the ocean and walked up to the fenceline that allowed us to see the ocean below. Sure enough there was a small group of 3 or 4 dolphins swimming about 200 - 250 feet off the beach ! They kept surfacing in different spots every 5 - 10 seconds as they made their way Northbound along the beach. By the time we got down to the beach with all our gear they had moved up the beach and out of site. My brother-in-law told me that in the past they hung out for a good part of the morning making their way back and forth along a small stretch of the beach that is relatively devoid of people.

About 15 - 20 minutes later I decide to gear up in case they come back and am getting my wetsuit on when sure enough they reappear, but by the time I can get out into the water and out past the jetty they're past me. Damn you yamamoto neoprene ! I continue to swim out in the hopes they'll return quickly. I'm hanging out about 50 feet off the jetty when from the other side another group of about 3 or four dolphins approach from about 150 feet away. I swim towards them. Visibility off the beach was terrible. If I extend my hand fully I can't see it, so I'm swimming for a bit and poking my head up to see where they're at. A wave comes rolling in over me and as soon as it passes I see 2 dorsal fins about 50 feet away. It appears as if they've changed directions slightly and moved to my left side. I turn towards them and kick my cressi garas a few times and pop back up. I see a dolphin's dorsal fin and then its tail as it dives to my right side headed straight toward me from about 40 feet away. They've got me surrounded !! Not wanting to swim with my face in the water I hold my position expecting to see more of them as they approach. I turned towards the position where the last dolphin appeared from. All of of a sudden they disappear, 5 seconds goes by, 10 seconds, 15 seconds ..... I'm scanning all directions.

This is when I start thinking to myself, hmm... I won't be able to see them if they approach underwater. How friendly are the dolphins in Delaware ? My mind flashes back to a PBS show I saw of Robin Williams swimming with wild dolphins and getting rammed by one of them. Hmm ... maybe this wasn't the brightest idea ....

All of a sudden a dolphin surfaces 20 feet to my right. It's so close I can clearly see the scars on the side of its body (I'm nearsighted). Another one appears about 10 feet past it and I can see a small notch torn from its dorsal fin. They continue on past me, swimming around me but that's as close as they get (that I'm aware of). I hang out for another hour or so but they don't return. :(

It was a great morning, I only wish there was better visibility so I could watch them swimming around me underwater. I have got to head back to Delaware !
  • Like
Reactions: tylerz
Completely thrilling to experience wonders of nature such as our aqua neighbours, wouldn't you agree!? Glad for your experience and wonder! Thanks for sharing the story. Sweet dreams, because they probably won't stop now!


  • Like
Reactions: smellsfishy
Great story, good technique to remember.

I've tried a bunch of times to get dolphins to come up to me, but, in all but one case, they seem to be going somewhere and wouldn't stop. It seems to work better if they are orienting to something that is not moving and/or if you wait for them to come to you.

Thanks Connor. The other thing I did was I made some funny noises in the water. I've heard that dolphins are curious and I assumed that if I made some strange noises they might come by to check me out. I don't know if that helped or not.
Don't know about noises, but it shouldn't hurt. If you ever get the chance again, here is my experiance. Hope it helps.

1. Had a dolphin come right up next to me while towing on a sled. I thought it was a shark at first, and about jumped out of the water. He left as soon as I reacted to his presence.

2. On several occasions I have tried dropping divers in the water ahead of the line of travel of dolphins. Only once did anybody get a look at one and he did not stay around. I don't think this works.

3. Once, but what a once, we found a group of dolphins staying around one spot. I got everybody in the water, no fins, with instructions to move toward the dolphins very,very slowly. Worked like a charm. The water was Bahamas clear and the dolphins would come up almost to touching distance. They appeared to be eating something just under the sand and would stick their noses 6-8 inches deep in hard sand and stir it. Incredibly strong animals. After shooting a roll of film, I suddenly realized I was an idiot to be still in the boat. Jumped in with fins and got my own eye full. Very interesting, the dolphins would not come near as close to me. I think it was the fins and greater mobility.

Good luck finding some more. Be sure to post if you do.

Very cool, I definitely hope I get the opportunity again in clearer waters.
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