2023 Trip 7

Trip 7: the final trip of the 2023 season!

We were thrilled to be back out in the Bahamas for the last trip of the summer, and even more excited to have our colleague Dr. Cindy Elliser of PacMam joining us! It has been over 10 years since she’s been aboard the Stenella and she couldn’t wait to see all of the dolphins on both sandbanks.

Dr. Cindy Elliser snorkeling (photo by Hayley Knapp)

After a nice, calm crossing we cleared customs in West End and made our way out onto Little Bahama Bank. The water was crystal clear and we couldn’t wait to see our finned friends. We spent a few days on the little bank and were finally able to make our way up North to the Nursery and Dolphin Wreck, which was a first for the summer and a trip down memory lane for Dr. Elliser. We encountered two bottlenose dolphins–– a juvenile and a pregnant female–– at the Nursery before heading to snorkel at Sugar Wreck, where we saw lots of fish including a lionfish, porcupine fish, and French angel fish!

Bleached fire coral on Sugar Wreck (photo by Hayley Knapp)

French Angelfish on Sugar Wreck (photo by Hayley Knapp)

Nursery from the surface (photo by Cindy Elliser)

The following day, we changed our plans and decided to stay on Little Bahama Bank for one more day because of some rough weather between West End and Bimini. Thank goodness we did! We found some of the southern resident spotted dolphins on that bank, including some females and new calves. We were fortunate to have two encounters with them before we headed down to Bimini.

Photo of Naia with a female calf (photo by Cindy Elliser)

A group of LBB dolphins (photo by Dana Hunter)

When we arrived in Bimini we anchored near Great Isaac’s lighthouse for the night before motoring around the bank. Unfortunately, we had to leave the Isaac’s area and search closer to the island because the large swells and choppy waters were not conducive to dolphin searching. It took a few days but we finally found several large groups of spotted dolphins including one of the rambunctious juveniles Moose! We had great encounters with Moose and other juveniles, including Destiny, Patronus, Rig, Rudder, and Pixie, as well as Zion (a fused dolphin) and her new male calf. The large group engaged in a variety of behaviors such as pec-pec rubbing, pec-fluke rubbing, playing with sargassum, chasing each other, socializing, and courtship. Did I mention the pec-rubbing?

Zion and her male calf (photo by Cindy Elliser)

Zion’s calf chasing Pixie with Sargassum (photo by Hayley Knapp)

Destiny inverted pec-rubbing with Patronus, and another juvenile (photo by Cindy Elliser).

On our last day, we woke early to prepare for the crossing and hopefully see some spotted dolphins before leaving Great Bahama Bank. We encountered two males, Baelish and Toad, and observed them for a bit. They were very curious and grabbed chunks of sargassum on their dorsal fins! As we were getting out, they returned and led us to an even larger group. This group was traveling rather quickly and it was time for us to get going on our trip back to Florida. We are so thankful to have had one last encounter with the spotted dolphins before leaving the Bahamas for the summer.


Baelish,with sargassum on his dorsal fin, and Toad beneath him (photo by Cindy Elliser).


If you haven’t had a chance to see the WPTV segment on the Wild Dolphin Project as they returned from the last trip of the 2023 season, here is the link: wptv.com/news/region-c-palm-beach-county/riviera-beach/dolphin-research-team-returns-from-latest-mission


Thanks for reading and supporting our project!

Until next summer,