Aloha from Ali’i Adventure Shack, your ultimate Kona Paddle Board shack. Have you ever paddled in Kona? Have you ever paddled with dolphins? Well, across the street from the Ali’i Adventure Shack you can do both! Here, within a two-minute walk of the Shack, you can take a Kona Paddle Board with pods of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins! It might take you another two minutes of paddling in Kailua Bay to reach the dolphins, but come on, five minutes to be surrounded by a pod of dolphins? Pretty amazing, right!
How do you make this happen? Your first step is a visit to the Ali’i Adventure Shack at the junction where Palani Road turns into Ali’i Drive. This is your one-stop Kona Paddle Board rental shop. Often times, from the Shack window you can see the Hawaiian Spinner dolphins swimming in the bay. Across the street from Ali’i Adventures are two launching points for your Kona Paddle Board adventure. One launch point is the Kailua Pier. This might be the launch point for the more experienced paddleboarder. At Kamakahonu Beach, right next to the Kailua Pier, the beginner paddleboarder can launch in pristine calm water. This is a great place to get your balance and your “feet wet” for the rest of your Kona Paddle Board tour-(it will be hot and sunny also so you might want to jump all the way in!)
From the launch point, it will take from two to five minutes to paddle to the middle of the bay, and the dolphins. At least that is what happened today! When you find the Hawaiian Spinner dolphins we suggest you follow some easy guidelines to maximize your dolphin experience. Some of you may wonder if spinner dolphins are aggressive. Although they are not usually considered to be aggressive, spinner dolphins are wild animals; all wild animals have the potential of being aggressive, especially when they feel threatened. Spinners have been observed charging potential predators. They also sometimes interact roughly with one another and are tactile animals that use their teeth to bite and scrape, or “rake”, one another as a way of interacting with each other. These natural behaviors could be harmful to a human. First, just enjoy the dolphins on the surface for a few minutes, let them get used to your presence. While you are doing this get your snorkel gear and life jacket/flotation device ready. Did you remember to bring them, or rent them from the Ali’i Adventure Shack? We will make you a deal on all the gear you will need for your Kona Paddle Board tour. Second, make sure your paddle board leash is securely fashioned to your ankle and that your paddle is securely fashioned to the paddle board. Now you are ready to slide gently into the water with the dolphins. Do not be surprised when you look down and see many more dolphins under the surface. Normally there are three dolphins under the surface for every dolphin you see at the surface. Now swim calmly and gently along the surface and the dolphins will often stay near you. If you make a lot of noise and are splashing the dolphins will simply swim away to a new location in the bay. The dolphins will often make circles in the bay so it is best not to chase the pod while in the water. They will most likely circle back to you shortly.
So, why are they called spinner dolphins? Well, they jump out of the water and spin multiple circles until they splash down! Why do they spin? There two major trains of thought about this. One is that they are trying to dislodge small remora fish, a kind of suckerfish that attach themselves to the dolphins. The second major theory is that the dolphins are communicating with each other through their jumping and spinning. Why are the dolphins often slow and lethargic looking? Simply put, they are sleeping and resting from a long night of hunting and feeding. This action of slowly swimming through the bay is called “milling”. They do this for about four to five hours. During their period of rest the dolphins do not spin or leap very often. Although they are resting, they do not sleep in the same way that humans do. Half of the dolphin brain is alert to ensure they continue to breathe, while the other half of their brain is at rest. Many scientists also believe that dolphins keep half of their brain awake to be aware of predators. This is also the time when the mothers will interact with their young. Did you know that there is no known mating season for dolphins? Like humans they can get pregnant whenever their body allows, generally about every two or three years. The dolphin gestation period is about 11 months.
What do the dolphins eat? They eat small fish, shrimp and squid that live in the deep ocean during the day but then surface at night. If you are on a Kona paddle board in the late evening and see the dolphins swimming energetically and jumping and spinning they are getting ready to go hunting. After a bit of energetic play, the dominant male will swim around and slap his tail on the surface to get all the attention. He will often circle while doing this, then he will lead the pod of dolphins to the deep ocean to hunt for the night. Here the pod will split into smaller groups and herd fish together into tight areas and then the dolphins will take turns feeding.
What animals prey on the spinner dolphins? While humans do not prey on dolphins we are dangerous to them and need respect and protect them in their natural environment. If ever in doubt about interacting with dolphins, always err on the side of caution and just stay on your paddle board to observe them from above. Tiger sharks and Oceanic white tip sharks from the Hawaiian waters sometimes prey on the spinner dolphins. In addition, false killer whales, pygmy killer whales, and short-finned pilot whales can also prey on them.
I hope this has piqued your interest in a Kona paddle board adventure with our Hawaiian Spinner dolphins. We hope to see you at the Ali’i Adventure Shack soon so we can talk story about your adventures.