The grey clouds lifted as the catamaran pulled up at the jetty of the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort
. A rainbow-coloured paraglider painted a stark contrast against the blue sky. The beach fringing the green shore extended for miles, right up to the rusty skeletons of shipwrecks which were stranded at the end of the bay. They provide shelter for thousands of tropical fish to be marvelled at by snorkelers. But we would do that later. First, we entered the Marine Research and Education Centre.
When John pointed at the sign next to the reception desk, the clouds drew back in. A shadow would hang over this day, which should have been our best yet, and one of the highlights of the trip.
On January 4th, Lipotes vexillifer, the Yangtze river dolphin, became the first species of cetacean to be declared officially extinct.
It feels like the loss of an old friend. I thought about the scientist in Wuhan with whom Boris and I briefly exchanged letters in 1985. About thirty years of intense conservation effort ending in dismal failure because there was no room for the dolphin in the busy and intensely polluted river, and attempts to construct a functional reserve remained fruitless. How do you protect a species about which you know next to nothing?
I’m upset. John is too, because we both remember Venezuela.
We picked listlessly at our huge BBQ platters and then I walked along the beach to snorkle, experiencing a wreck dive without the need to submerge myself. The fish took my mind off things for a while, but when I nearly collided with a group of about a dozen other snokelers, I decided to head back.
Walking over the blazing sand, I wondered who else mourned a little known Chinese dolphin.
Still, it was a good day. As it got dark, we gathered at the jetty. I swept the horizon with my binoculars, willing to be the first to spot a distant fin, only for the dolphins to appear as if from nowhere, right next to the beach.
But that’s another story.
I may be off blogging for a few days as we head north, becoming stranded in a tiny seaside backwater on the way.