by Emma Chereskin

Today, we set our alarms for 5:45 in the morning.

Arming ourselves with coffee in water bottles, we set off for the village of Moro Peixe with Maxime, owner of Sao Tome’s Paradise Tours for a morning out on the water.

At the village, just 20 minutes north of the city, we were brought to the Turtle Museum and Hatchery. A part of Project Tato, the hatchery trains eco-guards to patrol the beaches looking for turtle nests. By bringing the eggs safely to the incubation center at the museum, the baby turtles have a much higher survival rate when they are born.

The eco-guards and museum are doing amazing work for the conservation of 7 different species of sea turtles. We cannot wait to further develop a relationship with Project Tato and the Turtle Museum and Hatchery and to have our future volunteers experience turtle hatching season first-hand.

After getting to see the incubation room for the turtle eggs, we headed out to sea to find some mammalian wildlife, namely cetaceans. We scanned the horizon looking for any splashing or a glimpse of a dorsal fin. And finally, seemingly out of nowhere, we were surrounded by around 200 Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. We watched in awe as they breached, lunged, surfed, and porpoised all around the boat.

As the boat slowed down, we were able to get in the water with them, maintaining a respectful distance. One at a time, we put on our snorkels, jumped in the water, and held on to the boat as we meandered behind the group. Holding on to our swim suits with our left hand and the boat with the right, we lowered our faces down to see the world below us. And it was magical.

The dolphins swam so gracefully through the water, some with calves trailing beside them. We could even hear the dolphins click and whistle as they called to one another! It was an amazing experience, to see these animals in the open sea, where they belong. While we were watching the dolphins, we almost forgot to hang on to the boat!

It was sadly time to leave the dolphins to their own devices. It is so important to us that we only work with organizations that value and observe strict whale watching guidelines. Throughout our excursion with Maxime and Paradise Tours today, we maintained a safe distance, never interacted with the dolphins directly, and left after 30 minutes of watching these beautiful creatures.

On our way back to shore, we were able to stop for a brief swim in the shallows of Cabras Island. The crystal clear water was amazingly refreshing. As we headed towards home we snacked on fried sliced breadfruit and sat in awe of the amazing morning we were given by the dolphins of Sao Tome and Maxime.