ou’ll also see a wide variety of Florida’s native birds such as pelicans, egrets, herons, osprey, bald eagles and more. Occasionally, a gentle Manatee will make an appearance on this tour.

Make sure you bring your camera, as you will have multiple opportunities to capture breathtaking photos on this trip. On this tour, your Captain will steer you through a historic commercial fishing village and past several spectacular waterfront homes and estates.

Our Big Blue 80-passenger catamaran tour boat, “The Sea Adventure,” is thelargest, safest, and most stable dolphin watch boat in the Tampa Bay area. Your boat offers comfortable seating, restrooms, and an onboard snack-bar offering cold soft drinks, beer, chips, candy, and snacks. Climb on board and enjoy a real Florida experience!

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Dolphin Watch

C U later

published on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010

While Facebook busily redefines what it means to have a relationship, whom we spend our time with reveals more about us than any psychoanalysis of our childhood or sip of fermented truth serum.

If you work fulltime, you spend more time with the Bevs and Bills of your workaday worlds than with your children or spouse.

If you’re retired, you presumably choose your companions. This seemingly gives us a look at human social life as it was meant to be.

For a lot of us, it’s easy (and cheaper) to replace visits home with phone calls, or god forbid, text messages and Facebook displays.

Ever felt guilty about that? Should you?

Maybe we can get some tips on family affairs from free-ranging bottlenose dolphins. After all, they’re intelligent and socially flexible. Importantly, they’re under no pressure to look affectionate or respectful.

Bottlenose dolphins live in fission-fusion societies. Fission means splitting apart. Fusion means coming together. The fission-fusion society connotes a dizzying constancy of social group formation, destruction and reformation.

People understand this. If you socialize with people who were actually present in the same room, think about the best party you ever attended – wedding, bar mitzvah, bluegrass weekend, christening – whatever. If you socialize with people over cyberspace, think about the comings and goings on your social networks.

You spend time with one person; that ends. You spend time with a different person; that ends. Someone else shows up; soon replaced by someone else or maybe the first person again. On and on it goes until the party is over.

The challenge of social networking (and, alas, work e-mails) is that the fission-fusion “party” is never over, on land or sea.

The dolphins in our study area manage as many as 70 social relationships.

Some of their relationships are superficial. By chance or design, dolphins who mingle at dusk in the rich radiating waterways of John’s Pass get the chance to socialize with acquaintances and strangers. Some, like commuters on the same train schedule, may not actually interact. Instead, they drift in one another’s vicinity, drawn to the same attractions.

Some dolphin relationships are deep, indicated when a dolphin is psychobiologically crushed by the loss of a beloved companion or by local female Split, who prodded and protected the body of her dead baby for over a week, and then had dolphin dermatitis for the next year.

Surely, the mother-calf bond is the sine qua non of emotional ties. Mom dolphin has a calf. She spends years nurturing, protecting, feeding, retrieving and teaching her baby how to fish. They’re never apart.

Then, the next calf is born. Mom is busy tending it. For the older calf, suddenly it’s over. Many appear to fledge (wean) abruptly, with no preparation. Severed from mom’s care, the older calf swims off. It is alone for the first time in its life.

How can this be? Is the deep mother-calf bond snapped? Or is it stretched, like your bond with your parents when you grew up and moved away?

This summer’s mother-calf reunions suggested that the bond is stretched.

One August morning, perfect for cruising waterways past tangles of mangroves, two little dolphins were wholly focused on making as much bodily contact as possible. Five-year-old VC accepted rolling invitations from two-year-old Fugazi, arching up and plunging them both into seas of froth and fun.

Their moms hunted nearby. That wasn’t strange for Fugazi, who is not yet weaned. But it was wildly notable for VC, who weaned last year and has only seen his mom three times since.

That night, we saw two “reunions” among the dolphins that had assembled around John’s Pass at dusk. This time, VC cavorted wildly with teens Sharkey and Scarface. Their moms too were nearby, tending yearling calves. It was notable because they only see their moms two to three times a year.

In all of these reunions, surface observation showed no obvious interaction between moms and older calves. But in the dolphin way, each knew perfectly well that the other was there.

Dolphin moms and older calves only get together a handful of times each year. But the fact that they do so consistently asks if the “disconnected connection” inherent in e-mail was really invented by the Internet. The next question is whether dolphin reunions are random, and if not, how dolphins arrange them.

Humans and bottlenose dolphins manage a dizzying array of relationships. Both have fission-fusion societies.

Still, IF you had complete freedom (which you don’t), would you go home every once in a while?

Dr. Weaver studies wild dolphins under federal permit GA1088-1815, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Send her an e-mail at

Article published on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010

Copyright © Tampa Bay Newspapers: All rights reserved.  





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