Swimming with dolphins in Sataya Reef Egypt
July 12, 2016
Sometimes you discover a place that is so beautiful and so special that you wish for everyone to have an overwhelming experience like that. At the same time you notice that this magical place is vulnerable and needs protection. And that’s why you want this place to remain a well kept secret. Sataya Reef, the dolphin reef close to Marsa Alam, in the Red Sea in Egypt is such a place.
Sataya Reef is a special place. Especially early in the morning it’s calm and peaceful. When you wake up on the slightly moving boat, you glide into to water. You will hear the dolphins before you see them. And then, when the sea is smooth as a mirror, you will feel the Sataya magic. The interaction with the dolphins is intense and meaningful. Hours of swimming and playing with a huge group of dolphins will change your soul. And then you think: life can’t be more peaceful like this.
Yet, this peaceful area needs protection. Several boats sail out and stay at the reef for a week. Most of the time the crew of these boats respects the dolphins needs. Their guests only swim with the dolphins when the dolphins indicate that they are open and interested in contact with swimmers. With the so-called daily boats it’s a different story. They don’t stay at the reef for a week, they only visit for a couple of hours. That means that the guests of these boats don’t take the time to respect the dolphins natural behaviour. They just jump into the water, whether the dolphins are interested in interaction or not. The arrival of these boats is accompagnied by screaming, splashing and unrest. The dolphins are hunted by swimmers untill they seek their refuge elswhere. For me the arrival of the daily boats was the sign to go snorkling in other places and enjoy the beauty of the reef. It’s clear to me that there must be put a limit on dolphin tourisme.
On the other hand, from my personal experience I know that dolphins really enjoy the interaction with humans. In 2014 I visited Sataya for a day with a zodiac. There were no daily and weekly boats that day. It was just me. There were no dolphins either, so I decided to snorkle and enjoy the coral. Suddenly from three sides three pods rushed towards me. In a moment I was surrounded by hunderds of dolphins. We played for hours, spinning around and chasing each other for leaves and jellyfish. I will never forget how enthusiastically I was greeted by the dolphins, how they welcomed me in their pod and how meaningful and life changing my time with them was. I was in the water for hours. I didn’t feel tiredness, hunger or thirst. When the sun went down, I came out of the water and everything was different.
My various experiences in Sataya make that I have mixed feelings about tourisme to this magical place. I think that the Egyptian governement should declare it a protected area. It’s the dolphins resting place. Here they feed their young. But I also experienced first hand how valuable the interaction is, not only for people, also for the dolphins. So I don’t think the reef should be closed. Still, protection is needed. Visitors should be limited and interaction should be bound by respect and rules. There should be limited licences for weekly and daily boats so the number of visitors is restricted. Ofcourse this will drive the prices up, but that is the price to pay for the dolphins rest and the protection of the reef. Also education is needed, on the boats, but also in the Red Sea resorts and in Egyptian schools. Eco tourisme has to be stimulated, so humans and dolphins can enjoy each others compagny on the dolphins terms and in a responsible way.
Do you want to experience the magic of Sataya Reef in a responsible way, take a look at www.zwemmenmetwildedolfijnen.nl