The visit was carefully organised, no more than four people in the water at a time and no touching him or approaching him closely. No-one told Moko the rules tho and he was content to swim up to the snorkelers and actively tried to get them to join his game of swimming down the yellow anchor rope of the little boat.
Here Steve from the UK gets to meet Moko. I was surprised at how big Moko was as I was used to seeing the Common Dolphin species usually seen in our waters. Moko is a bottlenosed dolphin with an estimated length of three metres.
This was Elise, one of the Blue Sky crew who fell in love with Moko. He thought she was great too because she would swim down the anchor rope right to the bottom his snout inches from her hands as she pulled herself down. At one stage he nodded his head at her, she nodded back, he wiggled his body, she wiggled back and then he zoomed right up to her faced, stopped and put the end of his nose on hers. She came to the surface and declared "He Kissed Me!!!
Before long all the tourists were back in the boat, Elise remained in the water to tell me where he was going to come up so I could get the last few shots.
All of a sudden he was right under our tiny boat about ten foot down and I saw the most perfect bubble ring rise up to the surface and pop next to me. What an enchanting creature! Back on board Blue Sky we motored away to have refreshments at a nearby Bay at the Island and Moko followed for a while riding our wake as we went. He gave me my best shot of the day.
At Moutuhora (Whale Island) some of the tourists got back in the water near a small group of seals on the rocks overhung by ancient pohutukawa trees. The sun was out by now and I was so regretting not grabbing a wetsuit (not for the first time that day!) While the seals preferred to remain unsociable the swimmers explored the beauty of the undersea life surrounding the sanctuary of Moutohora Island. I was happy to entertain myself photographing the seals. Finally we headed home, all of us buzzing over our experiences. This young man Tague, a fellow collector, was especially happy with his latest treasure.
After seeing Moko I can't help but fear for his future. He has such a faith in human nature and I have a gut feeling that will be his downfall. He is a wild creature and deserves to be able to exist as such. His strange fascination with people is perplexing. He is a bottlenosed dolphin not often seen in these parts but why does he not seek out his own kind? His ability to interact with us makes it so hard to resist wanting to interact back, to observe him in his own environment, to be delighted by his antics. He touched everyone that was there that day and I don't mean physically. But he has already had a taste of what mankind is capable of on a beach down in Gisborne when a crowd of youths reportedly hit him and there were reports of a woman at Omaio hitting him with an oar. He can be a bit "pushy" apparently and after playing with people he tries to stop them leaving especially if they are on kayaks or similar.
I hope he stays offshore where his contact with humans is limited. The crew of the Blue Sky had the utmost respect for him and made sure their patrons did the same but we can't be sure everyone else will have the same attitude. In a way the situation with Moko reflects a lot of what my art is about -mankinds treatment and interaction with nature. Lets hope this story has a happy ending. Kia Kaha Moko!
Many Thanks to Whale and Dolphin Watch Whakatane, the crew of Blue Sky and Whakatane Beacon for such a memorable experience.