WDP TRIP FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Do I need a passport?
A: Yes; you will also need a small amount of cash to pay your Bahamas departure tax ($20.00).
Q: Will I get to see a dolphin?
A: They are wild animals and we cannot guarantee that we will definitely see dolphins; however, it is rare that we have a trip where no dolphins are sighted.
Q: Will I get to observe the dolphins underwater?
A: When we come across spotted dolphins, you will usually have the opportunity to work with them in the water. Again, they are wild animals and may not stay around; however it is rare that we have a trip with no underwater opportunities. Passengers will be paired in teams that will alternate, so you may not be in the water every time they are encountered.
Q: Can I touch the dolphins?
A: NO. We are strictly non-invasive. No touching, chasing, feeding, or harassing is allowed. It is important to respect that we are in their world, on their terms.
Q: Are there other swimming opportunities, such as reefs or shipwrecks?
A: Yes. You may have the opportunity to snorkel a local shipwreck, as well as other reef areas. Many of the places we anchor have interesting marine life; you are welcome to swim anytime we anchor.
Q: What other marine life, besides the dolphins, may I encounter?
A: The Bahamas has a rich variety of sea life. You may see many types of fish, possibly crustaceans (if your eyes are keen enough!), conchs, corals, sea turtles (often seen from the surface, resting) and sharks.
Q: Are sharks or other large predators a problem?
A: This is a wild environment and sharks do live in the area. The most common species are nurse sharks (fairly harmless), reef sharks, lemon sharks and the more dangerous tiger, bull and hammerhead sharks. We often see nurse sharks, and occasionally reef sharks underwater. Tigers, bulls and hammerheads are not seen as often, and usually from the surface, in which case we do not get in the water. Sharks are part of the ecosystem, but usually mind their own business. We have not had any problems with sharks in over 28 years of research.
Q: Do I need to bring snorkel or scuba gear?
A: You need to bring your own snorkel gear (mask, snorkel and fins) and make sure you practice using it prior to your trip. We do not have extras on board.
We do not use scuba gear. The water is shallow (average 10-40 feet) and the bubbles from the scuba can be distracting to the dolphins and researchers.
Q: What time of year is the best to come out?
A: Each time of year has its pros and cons. Early in the season, May to early June is often windier and has choppier seas. July begins hurricane season (and begins to be very hot). August and September have the greatest risk of hurricane formation (though they can form any time starting in July). Weather can change during any trip at any time of year, and it is not guaranteed that a certain time of year is typically good or bad.
Q: What happens during bad weather? What happens in case of a hurricane?
A: During bad weather (choppy, windy) we will go to anchor spots that are in protected calm areas and wait out the bad weather, or in some cases go into the nearest port. We keep close track on weather, especially possible hurricane formation. If a hurricane or a very bad weather system threatens to hit the study area, or Florida, for safety reasons we will have to cut the trip short and return to Florida early. Trip costs are not refunded, and trip insurance is highly suggested, just in case of this unavoidable circumstance. This does not happen often, but must be taken into consideration as a possibility when making your plans.
Q: Are sea lice (larval jellyfish) present?
A: Yes, to varying degrees. May and early June usually have higher amounts of sea lice present, however this can vary within a season and between seasons. Sea lice are usually not a big problem, and if present, you do not have to get into the water. Reactions to sea lice vary from person to person.
Q: What is the water temperature? Do I need a wet suit?
A: In May the water temperature is 78-79 degrees, a shorty suit or dive skin might be useful if this is too cool for you. From June–September the temperature is warm, at 80-90 degrees, and no wet suit is needed, although we highly recommend a rash guard for sun protection.
Q: Is this like a cruise ship?
A: No. Although we do have fun while on the boat, we are a research vessel, and research takes precedence. We work hard, and in turn have fun in between.
Q: What is the minimum/maximum age allowed?
A: There is no maximum age, however you should be able to get around easily, be comfortable on a boat and snorkeling in ocean waters, and be in good physical health. Minimum age varies. Unaccompanied persons must be 16 years or older with permission from a parent or guardian (some exceptions for slightly younger individuals depending on maturity level). Younger passengers, 10+, may be allowed with a parent/guardian. Contact our office to find out.
Q: Can I help with research tasks?
A: Yes. We encourage passengers to help with as much as they want. Passengers will participate in dolphin watches during the day, and other research tasks if they want. However, even though we have research data and educational materials around the boat, for you to learn from, no copying of these materials is allowed, as it is proprietary information.
Q: What is the boat like?
A: Stenella is a 62′ power catamaran (two hulls), which makes it a more stable, comfortable ride than typical mono-hull boats. It has an air-conditioned cabin where all sleeping rooms, salon, bathrooms and kitchen are located. The bridge has a hard top cover with plastic windows that unzip to allow for breeze. We have a barbeque and large picnic table on the aft deck for dinner.
Q: What are the sleeping arrangements?
A: There are two staterooms: one with four bunks and one with two bunks. Each passenger gets one bunk and a drawer to store clothes and personal items.
Q: How many people will be aboard?
A: The number of people on board varies. However our minimum for a trip is 6 people, and a maximum of 12 (including crew) on board at any time.
Q: What do I bring?
A: Look at the general information sheet (packing list) for details. Space is limited on the boat, and you do not need much; please try to use a collapsible bag (such as a duffle) rather than a hard suitcase.
Q: Is there drinking water and fresh water showers?
A: We make our own purified fresh water, so we have drinkable water on board. We also have fresh-water showers, though because we make our own water, we do try and conserve as much as possible. We take Navy-style showers (rinse, turn off water, lather, rinse, etc.).
Q: Is this a live-aboard boat?
A: Yes. We spend most of the trip far from shore, and we do not go into the harbor except to clear customs. We often won’t see land for the entire trip.
Q: Do many people get seasick?
A: Because Stenella is a catamaran, it is more stable than mono-hulled boats and most people are ok, however it does still rock. If you are susceptible to seasickness, we suggest you bring out medications, such as Dramamine or Bonine. PLEASE NOTE: Crossing over from Florida to the Bahamas may sometimes be quite rough (even for seasoned boaters). We suggest you take preventative measures prior to boarding the boat.
Q: Is there down time during the trip?
A: Yes. There is often a lot of down time in between dolphin sightings/encounters. Bring materials to keep you occupied, such as books, music, computers, etc.
Q: Do I need to bring my own food?
A: No. All meals/snacks are included in the trip price, and there is always plenty of food on board. If you have something specific that you need, please feel free to bring that along. Vegetarian diets and gluten-free options, although not vegan, can be accommodated reasonably onboard.
Q: Is fishing allowed on board the boat?
A: Yes. We have fishing gear and will fish when time/weather allows in specific areas.
Q: Are there electric outlets on board?
A: Yes. We have plenty of outlets on board for general use.
Q: What kind of communication means are available while on board?
A: We are far from shore for most of the trip and in another country. There is no phone or internet available while out at sea, we are basically out of regular communication during the trip. We do have a satellite phone for emergencies only. During the brief time when we clear customs in West End, Wifi is available, and there are land phones you can use with calling cards. Calling from your cell phone from the Bahamas will likely create both roaming and international charges, so please check with your provider if you choose to use your mobile device.
Q: Can I bring a camera?
A: Yes. We encourage you to bring an underwater and/or surface camera. However, in order to protect the research methods and materials, and in some cases to protect the dolphins, it is necessary to restrict publication (defined as the communication of information to the public) of any images, photographs and written materials taken or drawn from your participation in the program. PLEASE NOTE THAT PUBLICATION INCLUDES SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES LIKE FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, YOUTUBE AND ANY OTHER INTERNET SITES. Please also note that underwater and/or surface video is not allowed, this includes small clips on your camera/phone. GoPro cameras or any similar video cameras are NOT allowed on R/V Stenella during your trip. You can take still photography for your own personal use, but please no video.
Q: Do I need to bring any extra money?
A: The only money you may need onboard Stenella is if you would like to buy WDP souvenirs (T-shirt, book, etc.). However, you will need cash for taxis (to get to and from the airport, your hotel, the marina), and for any shopping you do before/after the trip on the island, and you must also have cash for departure tax ($20.00) when we leave the Bahamas, and it’s a good idea to have extra just in case.
Q: What is the drug policy?
A: Absolutely no illegal drugs allowed. Please keep any prescriptions in original containers with a label. Refer to drug policy page in the application.
Q: Do I need trip insurance?
A: Trip insurance is not required, but we highly recommend you purchase this type of insurance. Check with your airline, credit card provider, or general insurance agent for information about coverage. Airline and hotel costs cannot be refunded to you by WDP in the event a trip is cancelled due to weather or other unavoidable events. Refer to the full trip cancellation policy in the Trip Application.