Ages ago I read about a company called HK Dolphinwatch (www.hkdolphinwatch.com) who organise boat drips in the South China Sea to spot pink dolphins, also known as Chinese white dolphins. They are apparently the best company in Hong Kong to do this kind of trip with as they run the most ecological trips that are the least obtrusive to the dolphins. I knew that Joshua would absolutely love this as, like my dad, he loves learning about the creatures of the oceans and also like my dad, he likes nothing better than settling down to a good programme on Animal Planet or some similar channel. After this last 2 weeks together, my dad says Joshua is a little Marine Biologist in the making (note to self: check that Marine Biologists earn enough money to support their mothers in their old age!)
So naturally, this was one trip I knew had to be done when my parents were in town and I secured the booking well before they arrived. It was an early start, we had to be at the meeting point at 8.45am which was about a 20 minute cab ride away. Also – it was raining! Such a shame we didn’t have a sunny day but I knew the trip wouldn’t be cancelled because of a bit of rain, there are clear statements on the website about the weather conditions that would warrant cancelling the trip and this wasn’t thundery, monsoony or typhoony enough! The website also stated that they have a 96% spotting rate on their trips and if dolphins aren’t spotted, you get another trip free – not bad odds.
From the pick-up point it was about a half hour coach ride to the boat, during which time the guide educated us all on the history, welfare, general health, numbers, plight etc of the pink dolphins, gave out some info sheets, fun ones for the kids including some postcards with great pictures of the dolphins so we were all experts by the time we arrived at the boat and excited at the prospect of actually seeing them in the flesh. Still pouring with rain though.
The boat ploughed out to sea for about half an hour during which time we all sat very comfortably munching on complimentary custard creams, bourbons, tea & coffee. Eden obligingly fell asleep which was a major part of my plan to be able to actually try to spot the dolphins! We soon slowed to a halt and basically just waited. Some people were looking over one side of the boat, others were looking over the other side. It was really pot luck.
Then suddenly the excitement started – Joshua needed the loo, Dan went with him, at the same time a cry went up from the front of the boat that a dolphin had been spotted! Dan then came out of the loo calling to me that there was no toilet paper and could I find the guide to tell her! Obviously the guide was busy hanging over the edge of the boat pointing out to people where the dolphin had been spotted so they could carry on looking. I don’t think she appreciated me tapping her on the shoulder saying, “Sorry to ruin your moment but where’s the toilet paper?” She was about as keen to help me as I was to help Dan & Josh, after all I didn’t want to miss out on seeing a dolphin!
Problems were resolved and the next 2.5 hours were spent with people oohing and ahhing as those on one side of the boat spotted some dolphins, those on the wrong side missed it so rushed over to the other side but then missed seeing dolphins on the side they were originally on, and so on and so on. I was starting to think that the whole ‘free trip if no dolphins are spotted’ promise was all a scam as all it takes is for one person to say they’d seen one and bang goes the free trip for everyone else!!
But patience is rewarded and by the time we turned back everyone had got some really good views of these gorgeous creatures. It’s impossible to get a good photo and you just can’t be quick enough before they’ve disappeared again! We probably saw 5-6 in total so the guide told us who could tell the difference between them all. Each one popped up quite a few times, often in pairs, we saw mothers and babies together popping up to cackle hello or to reward us with a nice big dive and we all headed back knowing that we’d had a really unique experience.
Dan, Joshua and my dad braved the weather & headed onto the roof deck for most of the time so they could get an undisturbed view. The rain did stop eventually so it wasn’t too bad for them. Obviously my mum & I stayed inside, only popping out at crucial moments!
You can’t just pop out for a few hours to spot pink dolphins on a Sunday morning in North London – I guess this is why we came, to give our kids (and us) experiences like this. Well, Eden will have to go back and do it again one day as she slept through the whole thing!