For many of us, that moment when the grey dorsal breaks the surface of the water is a thrill. Goosebumps run your skin and you momentarily inhale, holding your breath in anticipation. Will they surface again? Or better yet, will they breach the water and jump for a full view? Spotting dolphin in the wild is as thrilling as anything one might imagine and for me, I still can picture many of those moments with a smile and joy-filled memory. If such a thrill is on your wish list, then grab up a copy of the ebook, The Dolphin Watcher’s Guide, Southwest Florida, from Jo Anne Lowney.
Jo Anne asked us to take a look at the ebook, letting us in on her secret spots among the areas of Marco Island, Naples, and Fort Myers. Also included are Sanibel, Captiva, and Englewood, a personal favorite of mine. The lovely Southwestern edge of Florida sits along the Gulf coast, an area as beautiful as any in the state, and while many locations are built up and often teeming with tourists (Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers) other areas are not as well known (Englewood, Gasparilla Island), yet Jo Anne provides an insider’s perspective on the best spots, times and ways to spy wild dolphin in their natural habitat.
Don’t worry about not having a boat, among the many locations she offers are plenty on shore. Indeed, Florida’s dolphin pods are as likely to be found near shore as off, and in some cases, near land you’re more likely to have a chance to see them. Places like Charlotte Harbor and Sarasota Bay have pods that are often seen, using these inland waterways as their homelands. So no worries on being boat-bound, land too can get you a great view.
Do not look to this guide as a tourist guide. You’re not going to find hotel listings, restaurants and the like, unless they happen to be associated with spying dolphin.
Jo Anne is also aware that looking for dolphin in the wild is a pass-time with some important warnings, reminding the reader that these are wild animals. To approach them is actually illegal and they are a protected species. That said, spotting them is a great American pass-time, and in fact, dolphin are sometimes known to approach boats to check things out. You’ve seen the photos of dolphin riding in wakes of boats, jumping and skimming for joy.
We have seen dolphin on many occasion. Just recently on the Atlantic side, we were SUPing with East Coast Paddle, Laura and I lingering at the back of the group where it was more quiet. The dolphin that make this inland lagoon home were seen a number of times, and it was with great joy that two surfaced for a quick look at us right next to (I mean RIGHT next to) Laura. We went our way, they went there’s, but it was a moment we’ll never forget and happens in any number of stories throughout the state’s coastal areas.
As Jo Anne talks about the Southwest, there too I had a great experience, on the King Fisher Boat Tour of Charlotte Harbor. A dolphin followed us for a long time, slipping in and out of the boat’s wake and on a few occasions, jumping for us to get a full body view.
These special moments remind us how powerful and special they are, but to try and get into the water with a wild dolphin and approach it is not only illegal, but a very bad idea. Jo Anne covers these practices and ideas within the book.
Tips on Viewing
Jo Anne’s advice on spying dolphin in the wild is great with some excellent tips. Among them, that she has had excellent luck spotting them where pelicans congregate.
But the tips don’t just end there. She has things many people won’t think of. And while I told you above that you do not have to have a boat (we have seen many from shore) she does remind you that having water access increases chances (think of our SUP adventure) and helps you navigate that activity as well.
Looking for a good dolphin tour is also important. You do want one that believes that harassing dolphins is a bad thing to do, and Jo Anne provides tips on how to fund a good tour. She even provides tips on how to dress to increase your viewing pleasure.
Among the offerings in the book, Jo Anne breaks down the communities into parts telling you where in each city you’re more likely to have an encounter. So if you’re in Sanibel, Fort Meyers or Englewood, you’re going to know which beach, jetty or pier to hang out on, or which area to hit the waves on.
I did very much get the strong sense that Jo Anne’s preference for viewing dolphin is in the wild. This is a noble ambition and one we should all take seriously. Whatever your viewpoint, the actual spotting of wild dolphin in the waters off Florida is a thrill you can only put words to, not emotions, but one that I can assure you, when you have it, will impact how you view dolphin. I will never forget my first time, driving to Clearwater at dusk, looking over along a causeway and seeing the grey dorsal surface. To this day I can picture that moment and every time I see one in the wild still, it reminds me of the world of life just offshore and the graceful, wonderful dolphin that call it home.
For your copy of The Dolphin Watcher’s Guide; Southwest Florida, check it out on Kindle.