Protecting Sataya Reef dolphins - Proposition de plan de protection des dauphins du lagon de Sataya
Voici le rapport qui a été envoyé aux autorités égyptiennes en charge du parc maritime qui contient le lagon de Sataya et ses dauphins sauvages. Il a aussi été envoyé à l'ONG HEPCA qui oeuvre à la protection de la mer rouge en local et soutient le gouvernement en ce sens.
Ce rapport propose:
- Une étude démontrant la plus grande valeur économique d'un tourisme plus authentique et respectueux des dauphins et de l'écosystème.
- Un bref état des lieux du profil des sites de nage avec les dauphins sauvages à travers le monde
- Une solution concrète, simple, peu couteuse et efficace de la manière dont le tourisme autour des dauphins du lagon de Sataya pourrait être organisé pour préserver le lagon et ses dauphins.
Résumé du plan de protection de Sataya proposé (en Français):
(english version and full report in english below ) :
1. Interdire l'entrée du lagon à toutes les embarcations motorisées - Autoriser uniquement les canoes-kayaks et les humains (à la nage ou en plongée)
Une tactique simple mais extrêmement efficace pour mettre fin à toutes les approches et mises à l'eau non respectueuses des dauphins de la part des bateaux et zodiacs. L'un des 2 problèmes majeurs à l'heure actuelle. Cela permet en même temps de résoudre tous les problèmes de pollution (gasoil/essence/huiles de moteur - rejets eaux usées) et de pollution sonore dans le lagon.
Pour ce faire, les bouées d'ancrage existantes dans les zones protégées à l'extérieur du lagon seront utilisées. Quant aux visiteurs entrant dans le lagon, ils devront obligatoirement avoir un gilet de sauvetage par personne (qu'ils soit porté ou attaché au canoë) et un chapeau. De l'eau sera aussi conseillé. Il y aura au minimum un guide en canoë pour 10 visiteurs en canoë entrant dans le lagon (même proportion d'accompagnement qu'actuellement sur les zodiacs). Ceux-ci superviseront les nages pour la sécurité des visiteurs de leur canoë (comme ils le font aujourd'hui du zodiac). Il auront un Talky-Walky par sécurité pour pouvoir appeler un bateau en cas d'urgence. Un guide supplémentaire pourra être présent si nécessaire aussi accompagner et guider dans l'eau les nages dauphins ou les randonnées palmées (comme c'est aussi le cas actuellement).
2. Limiter le nombre de visiteurs à Sataya et dans le lagon
- Par une meilleure répartition du tourisme (autoriser les bateaux de plongée à ne venir à Sataya qu'en dehors de la présence des bateaux de jours. Cela permet en plus un partage possible des ancrages).
- Mais aussi en limitant le nombre de bateaux par type de tourisme autorisé à venir sur site en même temps:
- 4 bateaux de croisières dauphins max à la fois, soit par semaine,
- 1 seul bateau de plongée à la fois mais 2 créneaux par jour: soit pour l'après-midi et la nuit, soit du levé du jour jusqu'à 10h30 l'arrivée des bateaux de jour. Cela permet ainsi à 14 bateaux de plongée au total de venir faire une escale à Sataya par semaine. (ou plus s'il y a moins de 4 croisières dauphins selon les semaines).
- Pour les bateaux de jours, mieux vaut ne pas limiter les bateaux mais directement le nombre de visiteurs à 100 par jour via le nombre de tickets d'entrée au parc maritime / Sataya disponible à la vente chaque jour (procédé déjà utilisé sur le site des dauphins de Samadhi).
3. Limiter aussi le nombre de visiteurs auprès des dauphins:
- D'une part via une meilleure répartition des visiteurs autorisés à approcher les dauphins en créant 2 plages horaires (visiteurs en excursion à la journée de 10h30 à 13H et ceux des croisières dauphins et croisière plongée avant 10h30 et après 15H). Ainsi grâce aux limitations des bateaux ou visiteurs définis juste au dessus il n'y aura donc que 100 visiteurs max sur chacune des 2 plages horaires (soit un nombre à peu prés égal au nombre maximum de dauphins potentiellement présent dans le lagon). Vous noterez aussi qu'en procédant ainsi, comme aucun humain n'est autorisé à nager avec les dauphins entre 13h et 15H, cela créé en sus une plage de tranquillité quotidienne pour les dauphins. Elle correspond à l'heure à partir de laquelle ils commencent souvent à se reposer ou à dormir. Il pourrait être ajouté une interdiction de nager avec les dauphins le mercredi pour leur offrir en plus une journée complète de repos par semaine. Ces jours là, les sorties et approches d'observation des dauphins en canoës resterait possible en gardant une distance de 30 mètres.
- Puis grâce à une règle simple: dans un rayon de 30 mètres autour des dauphins, il ne doit pas y avoir plus d'humains que de dauphins.
Les guides accompagnant les visiteurs devront s'organiser entre eux et
faire des rotations de leur groupes respectifs afin de respecter cette
règle (leur talky-walky servira aussi à cela). Certains iront découvrir
des tombants ou des patates de corail puis après aux dauphins, d'autres
feront l'inverse etc. Il y a assez de merveilles à voir dans le lagon
pour que cela soit fluide et agréable et non vécu par les visiteurs
comme de "l'attente". Procéder ainsi permettra de restaurer
l'authenticité et l'intimité des rencontres avec les dauphins pour les visiteurs, soit donc de restaurer son aspect qualitatif, en plus de la rendre respectueuse.
A l'heure actuelle, la sur-proportion d'humains nageant avec les dauphins représente le second problème majeur pour les dauphins. C'est aussi une source de désagrément important pour les visiteurs qui se heurtent sans cesse les uns aux autres ou jouent des coudes dans l'eau pour tenter de voir ou d'aller au plus prés des dauphins.
- En complétant enfin par quelques règles comportementales basiques envers les dauphins: la mise à l'eau des passagers des canoës doit se faire à 10 mètres des dauphins (jamais à moins et encore moins au dessus d'eux), approche à la nage lente et sans bruit, interdit de toucher les animaux ou de les nourrir. Interdit de nager à plein vitesse vers ou derrière les dauphins (pourchasse). Interdit de faire de l'apnée sur un bébé et sa mère etc.
4. Quelques règles supplémentaires de protection du lagon et de ses alentours:
Sur tous les alentours du lagon, les zodiacs doivent être au ralenti et éviter d'être bruyant. Jeter des poubelles à l'eau est interdit. Nettoyer les extérieur des navires ou les zodiacs est interdit. Toutes les activités divertissantes motorisées de type ski nautique ou bouées tirées etc. sont interdites.
Toute pêche est interdite (sauf peut-être quelques prise précises uniquement par une pêche à la ligne et dans certaines zones peuvent être autorisées aux équipages si nécessaire et acceptable selon les stocks de poisson - à définir). Utiliser de la crème solaire biodégradable spéciale qui n'abime pas le corail et/ou T-shirt ou combinaison en lycra anti-UV.
Avec cette organisation et ces règles simples et faciles à mettre en place, le lagon de Sataya pourra retrouver sa sérénité et sa beauté sauvage. Il sera un sanctuaire protégé offrant des rencontres respectueuses, intimes et authentiques aux visiteurs tout en préservant l'écosystème et les dauphins.
Report first published on November 24th 2018
Written for / Beneficiaries:
Mr Mohamed NEGM and the
Wadi El Gemal National Park authorities
The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency(HEPCA)
The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency(HEPCA)
Mrs Valérie VALTON - Paris, France.
Human-Cetacean Interaction & Tourism Management specialist
Table des matières
I. Report Executive Summary. 4
II. Introduction. 6
III. ‘Dolphins swim’ sites and touristic trend around the world. 6
A. ‘Dolphin swim’ sites number and profiles. 6
1. Only a few remaining sites. 6
2. 2 types of dolphin swim sites. 7
a) Sites with eco-friendly authentic encounters. 7
b) Overcrowded and unmanaged mass tourism sites. 8
B. The global trend in ‘Dolphin swim’ and wildlife tourism.. 9
C. Conclusion. 9
IV. Status of the Sataya Lagoon. 10
A. The natural site and its potential as a ‘dolphin swim’ site. 10
B. Actual status as a touristic ‘dolphin swim’ site. 10
V. Practices and key success factors among sustainable sites. 12
A. Strategic positioning of a site. 12
B. Site management: 13
VI. Solution applicable to the Lagoon of Sataya. 16
A. Solution outline and key elements. 16
B. Implementation Plan. 17
1. Strategic positioning of Sataya as a “Marine Wildlife Sanctuary”. 17
a) Objectives. 17
b) Implementation plan requirements. 17
2. The lagoon as a motor boat free zone. 18
a) Objectives. 18
b) Boat Free zone organisation. 18
(1) Boats anchorage. 18
(2) Safety organisation. 19
(3) Equipment required. 19
3. Managing the number of boats & visitors. 20
(1) A better spread of touristic activities. 20
(2) Managing the number of visitors. 20
4. Dolphins protection, approach & swim rules. 23
a) Dolphin resting time. 23
b) Dolphin – human ratio rule. 23
c) Dolphins’ approach and swim code of conduct. 24
(1) Dolphins’ approach on kayaks. 24
(2) Dolphins swim rules (inside 10 meter zone). 24
(1) Dolphins being reluctant. 24
5. Environmental rules for the lagoon surroundings. 25
C. Overall management of site entry, monitoring & enforcement. 25
D. Dolphin pod wellness and evolution monitoring. 27
E. New site management associated investments. 27
(1) Investments required by touristic operators. 27
(2) Investments to be made by the Sanctuary authorities. 28
VII. Overall conclusion. 29
VIII. Appendix. 31
Frommers Magazine - Dolphin swim spots picks 2015. 31
IX. References. 34
The Egyptian Red Sea hosts various populations of dolphins among which some Spinner dolphins. These are known to use different shallow reefs and lagoons as resting habitats away from deep sea predators (Norris and Dohl 1980; Wells and Norris 1994; Wursig et al. 1994). Sha’ab Sataya, a lagoon located in the south of Egypt, in the Red Sea around Marsa Alam, is one of them.
Tourism at Sha’ab Sataya developed rapidly over the last 10 years. The lagoon, as a dolphin resting habitat is thus under a continuously increasing touristic pressure.
The Wadi El Gemal National Park authorities in charge of Sha’ab Sataya are thus strongly willing to ensure that tourism does not deter dolphins from this last resting habitat in the Marsa Alam region. They wish to ensure the mid and long term survival of the local dolphin population while continuing to allow tourism around dolphins, as such touristic activities play a very important economic role locally.
Mr Mohamed NEGM from the Park authorities expressed his openness for inputs concerning best practices and solutions existing around the world that could best combine dolphins’ protection and touristic activities, which gave birth to the present report.
This report demonstrates that there is no need to choose between dolphins’conservancy and tourism revenues. There clearly exists a win-win solution which can combine both in the short, mid and long run.
As a matter of fact, the actual fast growing awareness among the world’s citizens about the need to protect nature3, but also to preserve wildlife to prevent it from disappearing5, has created an increasing appeal among tourists to immerge in protected natural sites and to live authentic and eco-friendly wildlife encounters6.
Given that the remaining number of such protected wildlife sites on our planet is very low and constantly diminishing, the economic potential of these sites as for tourism will thus highly increase in demand and value over time.
Positioning Sha’ab Sataya as a protected ‘Wild Dolphins Sanctuary’ is thus strategic and represents a win-win solution both for tourism and for dolphins’ preservation.
From the analysis of Sha’ab Sataya as a ‘dolphin swim’ site, and its evolution over the last 6 years (via a direct onsite presence each year for a full week in the summer since 2013), 2 major challenges, were identified: an excessive number of tourists (boats and swimmers) around dolphins, and the boats’ approaches and behaviours which are negatively impacting dolphins. From the analysis of various sustainable dolphin swim sites with similar physical configurations and/or challenges around the world, we could identify a suitable and easily replicable type of solution as well as key implementation success factors. We have thus been able to design a complete solution and a detailed implementation plan for Sha’ab Sataya as presented in this report.
Please find below, in a nutshell, the solution key elements:
1. Transforming the lagoon of Sataya into a protected “Wild Dolphins Sanctuary” to strategically change and enhance its image, touristic value and appeal. And to ease the implementation of the below dolphins’ protection plan.
2. Defining the lagoon as a motor-boat free zone, only allowing canoes-kayaks inside the lagoon. This solution would enable to solve many issues at once, whether regarding boats’ noise and pollution towards dolphins and the lagoon ecosystem, or regarding boats’ wrong behaviours around dolphins.
3. Managing the number of visitors in simple effective ways. A critical point to ensure dolphins’ protection while restoring a high value authentic experience to visitors.
4. A Code of conduct concerning dolphins’ approach/swim will be enough to complement the above elements and altogether enable a full protection of the dolphins.
Among other factors, 2 key success factors for such project were identified as follow:
5. Monitoring the dolphin pod’s health and evolution on continuous basis will be crucial to measure if the dolphins’ protection measures are sufficient. This will also enable adjustments if necessary over time to guaranty the pod long term survival and their presence at Sha’ab Sataya.
6. Strong Enforcement via heavy sanctions in case of infringement, directly applicable by the Park authorities. This is critical to ensure respect of the overall plan without requiring any onsite costly type of monitoring.
This report first presents in chapter III an analysis of the ‘dolphin swim’ sites around the world, in terms of quantity and of profile. Then, based on the evolution of western tourist’s expectations concerning wildlife tourism, we will be able to define for each type of site, their mid and long-term economic potential for tourism. This will allow us to understand where Sataya stands as of today, and what would be the best strategic positioning for Sataya to enhance and maximise its ‘dolphin swim’ touristic potential.
As we will discover, protecting and preserving the lagoon of Sataya and its dolphins, is what will ensure sustainable economic outcomes for local tourism in the mid and long term. There thus exists a possible win-win situation for both tourism and dolphins.
By studying in chapter IV various sustainable management approaches, best practises and key success factors observed in various sustainable sites, this will give us some precious insights to define an appropriate solution and implementation plan for Sataya as outlined in chapter V.
The analysis of Sataya as a touristic ‘dolphin swim’ site and of its evolution over the last 6 years has been conducted via direct onsite observations made by the author each year since 2013 (during a one week stay in the lagoon each year, in either June, July or August).
Knowing well the site of Sataya and the challenges it is facing today, the author has voluntarily only retained in the present analysis and comparisons, ‘dolphin swim’ sites and other wildlife sites which are precisely relevant to Sataya (similar physical configuration or similar issues and aspects). Most sites mentioned as a comparison and all sites analysed have been personally visited by the author within the last 8 years. This enables to confront the sites’ management plans and the effectiveness of their outcome as directly observed in the field.
There are only few places left in the world where dolphins can be encountered close to shore (whether as residents or regular visitors).
Dolphins used to live on most coastlines around the world in the past, but due to the boom of human shore activities (industrial, commercial and touristic) over the last two centuries, most dolphins sites close to shore have already disappeared. And they continue to diminish on a regular basis (the Riviera Maya coastline from Cancun to Tulum in Mexico lost all its dolphins within the last 30 years due to a huge touristic boom, etc.).
If among these places we only select the ones where the presence of dolphins is regular enough and the pod size big enough to enable a dolphin touristic activity, then the number of places drops drastically. And even more if we only select places where the accessibility, weather, sea temperature and conditions are all good enough to allow swimming with dolphins.
Finally, if among these very rare places we further select the ones where it is still allowed by local authorities to swim with dolphins, then less than two handful sites remain around the world.
As a matter of fact, to protect endangered species, mostly whales initially from tourism, many countries have forbidden both their close approach and their swim with (like USA and its Hawaiian islands, all the French Caribbean islands, Canada for both whales and orcas, Azores islands of Portugal for all big cetaceans except with 5 species of Dolphins, etc.).
Given that a similar touristic boom has developed around dolphins in many places over the last decade, some countries are also considering forbidding their approach and swim with to protect them.
In the Canary Islands (Spain), it is totally forbidden to swim with wild dolphins. In Hawaii (USA), the Fisheries department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed to ban swimming with dolphins as well as to forbid any approach within 50 yards of spinner dolphins by any means in 20161. This law has not yet been voted there, its outcome remains pending.
‘Dolphins swim’ sites are thus becoming very rare in the world and will become even rarer in the medium and long term. Both because dolphins are leaving our shores as a result of human disturbance and because some countries start to restrict or even forbid their approach and ‘swim with’.
Among this very small number of remaining ‘dolphin swim’ sites, we can observe 2 main profiles:
These sites are usually in themselves beautiful natural marine or coastal environments. The size of the boats and number of passengers observed in such spots are usually rather small, and the number of boats and swimmers around and with the dolphins are also rather limited. Depending on the sites and countries, this is either due to local management rules (ex: USA, Australia, New Zealand), to touristic businesses being mostly managed by human-dolphin eco-friendly experienced professionals (ex: Bimini island, Bahamas) or just because of a rather low tourism rate for the time being in other countries (ex: Drake bay, Costa Rica). Whatever the reason, these sites offer a truly authentic experience with wild sea mammals. Approaches are calm, slow and rather respectful, often guided by either knowledgeable and/or experienced professionals (whether scientists, biologists, eco-friendly sea mammal ‘swim with’ specialists etc.). We can observe that such spots are mostly in countries where nature and wildlife are locally considered as a natural wonder & heritage of the country, ie, highly valued. As a result, dolphins’ encounters are marketed and advertised as offering a unique type of authentic experience with wildlife. Associated tours are thus advertised as a high value offer to tourists and their prices are as result not cheap2. These places are usually quite famous internationally and often classified in the media as the world best sites (ex: Frommers the famous US magazine, which is a reference for such world ratings, did list a pick of the best ‘Dolphin Swim’ spots in 20052. Please see Appendix A for the full list and the tour information and prices etc.)
Frommers’ pick include Bimini Island in the Bahamas, the Hawaiian islands, the Azores islands in Portugal, some spots on the Australian and New Zealand’s coastline, Drake Bay in Costa Rica, etc.
Such highly rated and known authentic dolphin swim spots can attract tourists from all over the world just for the purpose of dolphins’ encounters and swimming. Dolphins there are thus not just a one day or half day attraction but often represent the major purpose of the trip for many tourists. They are thus a great touristic asset and a precious source of touristic revenues, both at a national level and for local communities around these sites.
These sites are much less known and in such countries, dolphins’ encounters tend to represent no more than just another ‘fun” or “entertaining” excursion or activity to do while onsite, like in Mauritius Island, Madeira (Portugal) etc. In these sites, there is no local awareness of the rareness and preciousness of having dolphins close to shore. Dolphins’ encounters are thus marketed as a rather low value offer. Boats tend to be bigger (from 20 to a 100 tourists) and boats as well as swimmers tend to be very numerous around dolphins. All types of practices and behaviours having a negative impact on dolphins can be observed there. There usually is no regulation around such ‘dolphin swim’ activities. Tourists may consider these tours fun and great, but many still consider them as a rather low value experience due to the overcrowded aspect of the tours, which in turns, confirms the rather low price rates of such tours etc.
Unfortunately, in the end as we have seen earlier, in some countries, dolphins may end up leaving these coastlines or sites.
And in many cases, as tourists are nowadays becoming more ecologically aware3, they slowly but surely start to be deterred from engaging in such excursions which are obviously un-respectful of dolphins. We can observe an increasing number of negative feedbacks on internet4 of such excursions and sites. Internet allows to widely and rapidly share information and its power to influence the choices of tourists is becoming more and more important over time4.
There is a strong and fast developing international ecological understanding of the real concern of our future on this planet: global warming, climate change, water rising, pollution, rapid extinction of so many animal species already happening and expected within a very short span etc. Research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found that “Marine animal populations have already fallen by 40% overall” within the last 40 years5.
Therefore, more and more citizens in western countries (but not only) start to care about protecting nature and wildlife, understanding their immense value and the urgency to protect them. This has created a new trend among these citizens, whose appeal for everything that is natural, bio, green, eco-responsible etc. is fast growing, whether for food, clothes, materials, etc., and tourism.
Such citizens are also more and more interested to immerse in nature. The demand for destinations and eco-friendly activities associated with protected natural places and wildlife is a fast growing trend among western tourists as proved by recent studies6. Tourists are also willing to pay more for such touristic approaches according to these same studies6.
Dolphin swim spots close to shore are becoming quite rare in the world. If valued as such, protected and well managed, these sites can then represents a huge asset for tourism as protected ‘wildlife heritage’ or ‘wildlife sanctuary’ sites. Their value will increase in line with their increasing rareness, and due to the actual global tourism trend which shows a fast growing demand for all types of eco-friendly immersive experiences in nature and with wildlife.
However, if such wildlife tourism if not sustainable, then risk is very high that dolphin populations will decrease or move further away rapidly from these shores or sites. In such case, all potential revenues from the associated touristic activities will disappear. And if not, their touristic appeal, value and potential will decline no matter what in the mid and long term.
The strategic positioning and management of dolphins’ sites and encounters are therefore crucial both for dolphin conservancy as well as critical for a high value sustainable tourism. It thus represents a win-win solution both for dolphins and for the touristic economy.
The site as a natural environment:
The lagoon of Sataya (Sha’ab Sataya) is an extremely beautiful yet fragile natural site and a rare type of large and almost fully closed horse shoe type of lagoon with very shallow waters, especially so far at sea. Furthermore, the quantity and variety of coral displays and fishes observable (outer deep reef & inner shallow reefs corals and marine life, numerous reef potatoes and a huge coral garden etc.) and their good conservation state make it a natural wonder in itself.
The site potential as a dolphin swim site:
For the moment we will voluntarily leave aside the existing touristic activities to assess first the ‘dolphin swim’ spot in itself and in its potential.
What makes a valuable dolphin swim spot is as follow: the high frequency and reliability of dolphins’ presence, the importance of the pod size, its accessibility, the weather and sea conditions making it nice and easy to swim for humans and the underwater visibility.
In the lagoon of Sataya, all these conditions are at their best: dolphins come in most days and year round, pods seen on daily basis can approximately comprise between ten to one hundred dolphins, and dolphins usually remain many hours within the lagoon. Dolphins there are not fearful of humans but instead, very tolerant and even accepting a certain level of interactions with humans. Waters are warm and always calm due to the protecting surrounded horseshoe type of reef making it easy, nice and comfortable for swimming. The water also is very shallow (<15 meters), warm and with an incredible clarity offering an amazing underwater visibility.
The combination of the existence of such natural lagoon, its outstanding beauty and reef biodiversity, associated with a massive and reliable presence of dolphins, comfortable swimming conditions and perfect underwater viewing makes it one of the most beautiful and convenient natural site for dolphin encounters around the world. It would clearly deserve to be in the world best ‘dolphin swim’ spots for all these reasons, and it could easily be among the top 3.
As a comparison, the Red Sea is among the world top 3 most beautiful underwater life (with Australia and Belize) and is therefore one of the most famous destinations for scuba diving in the world. The associated touristic and economic benefits of such a natural wonder proved to be immense for the country.
Tourism in the lagoon of Sataya exponentially developed over the recent decade in 3 main forms: day tours, site stop overs by many diving cruises, and dolphin swim cruises staying for one week in the lagoon of Sataya.
The site is thus unfortunately, slowly but surely, falling into an overcrowded mass-tourism type of ‘dolphin swim’ site. All the key elements known to negatively impact dolphins can be seen onsite. Also, the general attendance of the lagoon by dolphins seems to be slightly decreasing. Even if no proper precise data is available to prove it or evaluate its extent, such general observation as gathered by the author from various dolphin swim operators over the last 6 years is at least to be raised as a red flag.
The main challenges associated with tourism at sha’ab Sataya are as follow:
- Lagoon Habitat and dolphin pollution: gas/oil and noise pollution from all types of boats, boats’ liquid sewage rejected in the lagoon (from toilets, cooking, washing and cleaning products etc.). Also from garbage flying off the boats (plastic glasses and bottles, yogurt cups, foil etc. ending up on the reef). And finally, also from tourists’ sun screen whose components negatively impact the reef (Downs CA, Kramarsky-Winter E, Segal R, et al. 2015)10 and probably dolphins too given that some of their components also have a negative impact on the human body11).
- Excessive tourism/overcrowded spots: the number of boats and of tourists in the lagoon are more and more often way too numerous compared to the dolphin pod size, outnumbering it by large. (Up to six zodiacs can often be seen following a pod of only 3 to 8 dolphins, and up to 8 zodiacs (ie, 80/90 swimmers) can be seen swimming around a pod of only 10 to 15 dolphins. As for day boats, up to 100 swimmers or more can often be seen jumping directly off the back of day boats right on the dolphins, all at the same time, and so, even if the dolphin pod only counts 15 to 20 dolphins.
- Boats’ behaviours around dolphins (day boats and zodiacs) and dolphin encounters’ management are of an evident very high disturbance and nuisance for dolphins. Behaviours observable on a daily basis: Zodiacs chasing dolphins, zodiac arriving at high speed and navigating at speed right by the dolphins and over them. Zodiac’s pilots and guides not checking or respecting if dolphins are sleeping or willing to be left alone. Zodiac’s pilots and guides dropping people right on top of the dolphins, and allowing too many tourists in the water compared to the dolphin pod size. Dolphin day-long harassment: when dolphins try to leave away from swimmers, zodiac pilots/guides take tourists back on board and pursue dolphins to again drop tourists on top of them etc. This goes on as long as dolphins stay in the lagoon and this is done by 85% of all zodiacs and day boats on a daily basis etc.)
Dolphins are thus solicited all day long, and too often by way too many tourists and boats, no matter whether they show signs of reluctance, or whether they sleep or rest. The approaches are of high disturbance for dolphins as shown by their multiple behaviour changes when approached (diving to swim on the sea floor bottom, changing directions, accelerating their cruising speed to move away, etc.).
As many recent studies demonstrated, spinner dolphins come to such habitat to socialize, but most importantly, to rest, sleep and nurture their young, away from deep sea predators (Norris and Dohl 1980; Wells and Norris 1994; Wursig et al. 1994). Endangering their rest and sleep and/or creating too much environmental and behavioural disruption or stress have a critical negative impact on their health. It can deter them from continuing to use such resting sites and therefore endanger their mid or long term survival (Bejder et al., 2006; Bejder et al., In press).
Also, as a result, the lagoon and the dolphin swim experience are becoming rather poor in such overcrowded and noisy conditions. Swimmers often bump into one another given the crowd while trying to swim with dolphins. This thus impacts the image and value of such site and of all dolphin touristic tours.
In this chapter, among the various best practices and key success factors concerning marine wildlife sustainable tourism, we only selected the ones which have a direct interest and relevance to the case of Sha’ab Sataya.
Most people around the world know and highly value, both the seven wonders of world (like the pyramids of Egypt), and the UNESCOs World Heritage sites (like the ‘Grand Canyon’ in USA). People understand their priceless value for humanity whether natural or cultural, as well as the critical need to protect such sites. These sites have thus become world famous, they receive substantial donations and help for protection, as well as they generate huge national and local tourism revenues by attracting millions of tourists from all over the world.
In USA, in the same way, both at a national and at a state level, authorities define and indicate to all citizens that certain sites are of high value and represent a great wealth for the state or country by creating and naming certain key sites as ‘Heritage Sites’ , ‘Sanctuaries’ or ‘Protected Areas’. These can also be cultural or natural land and marine sites.
As highly valued sites, these are then highlighted and promoted by tourism departments as such. It thus generates greater tourism affluence (Osso 2014)7 and this greater tourism affluence in turn confirms the precious and high value character of these sites (due to the important revenues generated around it locally).
Being classified as ‘protected’, this naturally entices a certain respect from touristic operators and tourists themselves regarding all protection rules applicable to such sites. This strategy is thus a successful proven virtuous circle, to better protect a site and enhance its touristic value.
This is how many American National Parks or marine protected Areas became so famous both locally and internationally (Grand Canyon, Yosemite national Park, Monteray Bay Marine Protected Area etc.), attracting millions of tourists but in an ecologically friendly way ensuring their long lasting sustainability.
We can observe the same outcome in Canada where many wildlife sanctuaries have been created. For example, the small village of ‘Tadoussac’ on the Atlantic coast, with only 800 inhabitants, has become internationally famous thanks to its marine wildlife sanctuary attracting more than 300 000 tourists per year coming to observe, seals, dolphins, whales and other sea mammals. By setting up such a protected wildlife sanctuary with a controlled and well organized eco-friendly type of tourism around sea mammals, Tadoussac has managed to perfectly combine wildlife protection and a thriving touristic economy. Thanks to such approach, it has entered since 1998 the very closed but yet internationally famous club of the “World’s most beautiful bays”8.
What Tadoussac and the other above US sites mentioned prove is that it is possible to combine a thriving touristic economy and wildlife protection via an eco-friendly sustainable wildlife tourism approach. Instead of having cheap negative mass tourism which creates a poor touristic experience and a high threat to wildlife, such approach creates high value tourism, high revenues, better animal and habitat protection and a long lasting sustainability for both.
France has also started to do the same with many new protected marine areas on its southern coastline (the French Riviera) and in its island of Corsica. They also already start to be of an increased interest among tourists proving the economic and ecological interest of such strategic positioning.
We can note that because many such “sanctuaries” or “protected areas” have proven to be as beneficial for nature/wildlife as for business/tourism, they now are more easily welcomed by local communities who understand their economic benefits. They are thus easier and faster to implement.
Therefore transforming Sataya site into “Wild Dolphins Sanctuary” would be both very strategic and easily doable given the proven benefits for all parties of such solution.
Let us study the case of the Hawaiian Islands (USA). They are among the most famous destination for authentic ‘dolphin swim’, and are among Frommers’ pick of ‘dolphin swim’ sites. In these islands, many spinner dolphin pods live very close to shore and use some shallow bays as resting habitats.
In USA at a country level, all cetaceans are protected by a national law stating that “Any harm, annoyance and even a simple disturbance to cetaceans is prohibited”. This simple law created a clear understanding of the need to protect them among all citizens across the entire country.
The law is enforced via quite important field controlling means (compared to other countries), but mostly thanks to severe sanctions that are of sufficient gravity to deter violations of the law (fines, revocation of pilot, boat and business licences and permits, court and jail).
Also, given that citizens are well aware of the national general cetacean protection law, citizens tend to report to the authorities or to the police when witnessing behaviours infringing the law. So everyone, including all touristic operators, tends to be respectful of the law by fear of being seen or reported.
The dolphins’ approaches and behaviours of all vessels and swimmers, along the eastern coastline of the island of Hawaii (Big Island) for example, are effectively among the softest and more respectful ones compared to many other countries and sites around the world.
So the national law clearly has a positive impact on both citizen’s attitude and tourist operators which pass it onto foreign tourists. It has efficiently created some sort of common ‘culture’ or ‘understanding’ on one side and is well respected given its strong enforcement via severe sanctions.
The only main remaining difficulty the authorities are now facing in Hawaii, is that the overall number of tourists and associated boats doing dolphin swims have become way too numerous. They therefore end up creating proven negative impacts on dolphins as scientists and associations did demonstrate in recent studies (Danil et al. (2005)9.
Given that dolphins navigate all along the coastline very close to shore and visit various bays during the day where people can directly swim from shore to join them, controlling the number of boats and of swimmers around dolphins in such a wide environment is a real challenge. The NOAA Fisheries authority in charge has thus designed a law in 2016 (whose vote is still pending at this time) to forbid the approach of dolphins any closer than 50 yards6, therefore prohibiting any dolphin swims. Such law would of course then be highly effective and easily enforceable.
For example, whales in Hawaii are not to be approached closer than 100 yards, being a simple, clear and undisputable law, also highly enforced by severe consequences, the law is 100% respected.
We have observed the same type of law in many countries associated with similar heavy enforcement sanctions (Canada, French Caribbean, Azores etc.,) and they prove to be efficient in all these countries too.
This is why a similar type of law for dolphins in Hawaii would therefore also be highly efficient. However, the impact on tourism activities would be so severe locally that many discussions are ongoing to try and find other less radical alternate solutions.
- The effectiveness of setting up rules which are simple, clear and undisputable, and to associate them with heavy sanctions in case of infringement. Such combination is thus a key to success.
- Also, when a rule is simple enough to create a general understanding or ‘culture’, it can be very beneficial too, either at a national or local level.
- Allowing everyone to report an infringement directly to the authorities can heavily support the enforcement of a law while lowering the need for monitoring.
Interesting site management approach replicable in Sataya
In Hawaii (USA), each state can classify its local wonders as ‘heritage sites or sanctuaries’ and the local (land or maritime) park authorities in charge, are also entitled to define particular management plans and rules based on the site specific needs.
As for spinner dolphins for example, Keleakekua bay in Big Island, a bay in which spinner dolphins come on a daily basis, has been declared ‘State Heritage Marine Park’. And as such, it has been declared a boat free zone by the state park authorities. Instead, only kayak/canoes with permits and swimmers are allowed to enter the waters of this particular bay.
Only 3 kayaking companies have been granted a commercial permit to run dolphin kayaking tours with precise specifications about the time length, number of kayaks/tourists allowed and number of kayaking guides per groups etc. So dolphins in the bay are only visited by canoes and by additional swimmers who are directly swimming off from shore.
The ‘boat free zone’ rule being very simple, clear and undisputable, it is easily enforceable and onsite proves to be 100% respected locally.
Creating such a free-boat zone would be easily replicable to the lagoon of Sataya as it is also a naturally well delimited zone. It would enable to avoid 99% of all pollution and noise pollution to the dolphins and the ecosystem. It would also stop at once all harassments and nuisances caused by boats/zodiacs which are one of the 2 major issues in Sataya.
Unfortunately, in this particular Kaleakekua bay, aside kayaking tours, the increasing number of swimmers who are directly swimming off from shore into the bay have become too numerous compared to the dolphin pod size and the bay size. They now do start to represent a nuisance for dolphins.
Of course, Sataya shall never encounter such issue as no one can swim there from shore. Nevertheless, it does highlight as another key success factor the importance of limiting and controlling not only the boats but also the number of swimmers/visitors around dolphins to ensure a proper protection of the dolphins.
Finally, what is also interesting in the case of this particular bay, is that the authorized canoeing companies offering tours, even if allowed to offer dolphin swims as well, do not do so. They only offer a canoeing tour with the possibility to observe dolphins from the canoes. And surprisingly, these tours have a lot success among tourists (whereas tourists could choose any other provider to go swim with dolphins nearby). This demonstrates that being able to simply view dolphins from close is sufficiently satisfying for many tourists.
In Tenerife Island (Spain), where it is forbidden to swim with dolphins, dolphin watching tours also enjoy a great success among tourists.
If such dolphin watching tours are also successful among tourists, they can represent a useful tourism management tool to lower the human presence and pressure on dolphins. For example, authorities could define that on a certain day per week (wednesdays for example) only dolphin watching from the canoes is allowed in Sataya (no swimming with allowed on that day). This would enable to offer dolphins a day off from any human swimmers while allowing for touristic tours to continue being run on these days.
We have seen that the main dangers for the lagoon ecosystem are as follow:
- Boat noise and gas/oil pollution,
- Liquid sewage rejected from boats
And the main dangers for dolphins are:
- The same above elements
- The excessive number of boats and swimmers with the dolphins at once, and all day long.
- The tourist boats/zodiacs’ approaches and behaviours around dolphins
Therefore, given that the lagoon is far enough from shore and forming a well delimited and closed horse-shoe type of zone, a similar solution to the Hawaïan bay of Kaleakekua could be replicated. The same strategic positioning of Sataya as a “wild dolphins protected sanctuary” with a free-boat zone management approach would be very efficient. The implementation could be fast and at low costs. This solution combined with a boat/visitor limitation management and a dolphin swim code of conduct will solve at once all actual issues cited above.
And to ensure success of this tourism management plan with law monitoring means, a strong enforcement via severe infringement consequences will be key success factor. Having proper and continuous data over the dolphin pod’s health and evolution will also be crucial to evaluate if the plan is sufficient to ensure the sustainability of the dolphin pod and of Sataya as a resting habitat for them.
The solution key elements:
1. New strategic positioning: Sataya becomes a ‘Wild Dolphins Protected Sanctuary’
- Aim: Enhancing the touristic value of the site in line with the growing global wildlife tourism trend, while easing the understanding and acceptance by all actors of the new site management rules and associated necessary investments.
2. Defining the Sanctuary’s as a motor-boat free zone: only canoes, kayaks or paddles are allowed inside.
3. Restricting & managing the number of boats and tourists onsite as well as around dolphins.
- Aim of the 2 above points: solving 99% of all dolphins and habitat nuisances at once, while restoring a high value authentic experience for visitors.
4. Necessary dolphin pod wellness and evolution monitoring
- Aim: provide accurate data to measure and adjust plan as necessary in the future to ensure sustainability of the pod and of its use of Sataya as a resting habitat.
5. Adequate enforcement means via heavy sanctions
- Aim: Ensure a 100% respect of the site management rules without requiring any costly onsite monitoring.
The aim is to highlight that the lagoon of Sataya is among the very few heavens left over on the planet for authentic wild dolphins’ viewing and encountering, in a beautiful and untouched natural site. This will greatly enhance the image and the value of the site and of all dolphin touristic activities by being in line with new growing touristic demand for eco-friendly tourism.
Given that this is a change of image, it is mostly a communication task.
- Approval and appropriate support from adequate Egyptian authorities.
- Communication key elements to be created:
o A new presentation of the site as a protected Dolphins’ Sanctuary as follow:
- With a new name (ex: Sataya Wild Dolphins Sanctuary or else)
- Explaining why such marine wildlife sanctuary is created, presenting and highlighting the rareness of such site and the importance to protect it.
- Promoting the site and the tours in a new appropriate way. The touristic department and dolphin tours operators shall find all necessary content to market/promote/advertise the site and their associated tours there. (ex: Day tours shall be presented as “Dolphin Sanctuary canoeing tours”. The focus of such tours shall now be set on being able to canoe-kayak in such a protected wildlife sanctuary with the unique chance to see wild dolphins from close. The ‘swim with’ shall only be cited as ‘if dolphins allows so, you may get also get the extraordinary opportunity to swim with them’. This shall not be guaranteed nor be the sole focus of the tour, especially for day tours or scuba diving tours (whose stay is usually too short to guaranty such possibility) Etc.
- All new rules for tourism associated to the sanctuary in order to protect the dolphins and the lagoon shall be clearly displayed and highlighted too. Putting forward that this enables a sustainable eco-friendly touristic approach is important as this will strongly attract tourists and largely compensate for the restrictions.
To do all this, a website or webpages can be created directly by the authorities and/or otherwise can be done via the adequate official tourism department website.
- Cooperation with Tourism Department for them to help spread the new information on all touristic media support (website, brochures, other medias etc.), and to support the project by creating an event for the celebration of the sanctuary opening and inviting medias for example etc. The idea is to raise awareness among all local touristic actors and tourists of the enhanced value of the sanctuary and to position it as a key local natural wonder of an utmost importance for the touristic development of the region.
By forbidding the entrance to all big boats in the lagoon, the natural beauty of this natural site would remain untouched and well protected from all forms of pollution and all dolphin types of nuisance and disturbance. This will also restore both the untouched wilderness atmosphere and look and feel of the site, as well as create an authentic immersion type of experience into nature/wildlife for visitors. This will enable to be in line with the fast growing trend of tourism for authentic and eco-responsible ‘wildlife/nature’ experience.
Canoes and kayaks as well as swimmers are way too slow compared to dolphins to represent any real annoyance as long as the number of canoes/kayaks remains reasonable and as long as a few behavioural basics rules are set in addition as well see afterwards.
All motorized boats must anchor outside the lagoon.
Dedicated anchorages can be defined for each type of touristic boats outside the lagoon (using the existing ones may actually be sufficient)
- Dolphin cruise boats are doing the least number of manoeuvers as they stay for a whole week onsite, and these tourists will need to be able to swim around their boat the whole week. The sole reason of their stay is to immerse in nature and with dolphins. They shall thus be anchored within the nicest, safest and most peaceful spots for a quality stay experience.
- Diving boats and day tours shall not be too close to above boats due to their manoeuvring in and out every day (creating noise and pollution). This in order not to ruin the quality of stay of dolphin weekly cruises. Also, selecting for them anchorages that require the least manoeuvring would be ideal.
Therefore, defining only 2 types of anchorage would be enough:
o One type of anchorage for weekly dolphin cruises only (in quiet, safe and easy swimming spots)
o One other type of anchorage for all short stay boats (shared between day tours and diving cruises as these latter also only do short stop overs at Sataya).
To easily indicate what anchorage is for which type of boat, it would just require changing the actual floating buoys (or plastic barrels) at the end of the existing anchorage ropes to set 2 different colours of buoys/barrels (yellow for short stay boats (diving and day tours)and red for dolphin cruises as an example).
- All touristic operators on the red Sea must have life jackets on board their vessels as per the actual law. So these could be set as mandatory to be taken on board all kayaks/canoes when entering the Sataya lagoon as a general rule. The choice and responsibility to wear them or leave them tied up to the canoe-kayak can be given to visitors (as it is the case in Kaleakekua bay in Hawaii).
- As for safety too, a general rule shall define that one guide is required to accompany a group of X tourists/kayaks inside Sataya Lagoon (example: 1 guide for 10 to 12 tourists could be set as a maximum. This is the actual ratio observed on zodiacs in Sataya: on each zodiac there has at least one pilot for 10 to 12 passengers max. This way, the quantity of staff required by operators would remain the same (except maybe for day-tours for which we do not know the existing quantity of staff available).
- Each guide shall have a talky-walky to be in contact with other guides and their main vessel:
o To organise with other guides for their groups to go in turn swim with dolphins based on the dolphin pod size (as we will see later),
o And so as to call in a zodiac/boat in for help in case of emergency.
Whatever the canoeing activity inside the lagoon (dolphin-swim or reef snorkelling etc), the same rule as for the ratio 1 guide/per X tourists/canoes, talky-walkies and live jackets on board canoes-kayaks at all times shall apply as the general Lagoon safety rules.
Aside the rules, visitors shall be heavily advised or obliged, depending on the season, to wear a hat while on canoe-kayaks to avoid sunstroke.
- All touristic operators will thus need to have:
o Canoes, kayaks (or paddle boards) for their visitors
o life jackets for all visitors on canoes-kayaks
o The appropriate number of guides according to the number of visitors to enter the lagoon on above canoes/kayaks/paddles
o Talky-walkies for all canoeing guides +an additional one on the main boat
One simple but very effective solution to avoid having too many boats at the same time around Sataya would be to better spread the time presence of the different touristic types of tours.
In that respect, diving cruise boats could only be allowed to come to Sataya outside of day boats presence (ie, after 3 pm and before 10.30 am).
Allowing them to only use the same anchorages as day boats would ensure so and would lower the number of anchorages required. Having only 2 sets of anchorages as defined earlier is thus perfectly adequate.
Diving cruises have the flexibility to adjust their itinerary and time schedule among other diving sites and activities around to comply with these indicated times. Day tours on the other side have no flexibility at all time-wise. And, as for dolphin cruises, given that the sole reason of their trip is to be at Sataya and with dolphins, they is no possible time spread as they need to remain onsite.
By doing so, it both limits the number of necessary short stay boats’ anchorages as well as the overall number of boats at the same time around the Lagoon, without restricting tourism.
Objective: the maximum number of tourists authorized to swim with dolphins at the same time shall be 100, ie, in line with the greater possible pod size estimate as a general rule.
Therefore, we can define 2 time zones for dolphin swims, and spread each type of tourism within these 2 time zones. It will maximise the touristic possibilities while still limiting the number of visitors at the same time with dolphins as follow:
Before 10.30am and after 3pm:
A maximum of 100 visitors from Dolphin Cruise and Diving cruise altogether can enter the lagoon to go canoe and swim with dolphins. This can be secured by regulating the number of boats as follow:
- 4 Dolphin cruises boats per week allowed in Sataya (+-80 visitors as a maximum).
- 1 scuba diving cruise at a time (+-20 visitors max). To maximise the possibilities, 2 time slots can be defined for diving cruises stop overs: either an afternoon/overnight stay or an early morning and up to 10.30 stay. This would allow up to 14 scuba diving boats stop-overs each week. If this was not to be enough, then, each time there are less than 4 dolphin cruise boats, these latter could be replaced by scuba diving cruise boats as long the overall limit of 100 visitors is respected. However we do not advise to offer so due to the increased management complexity associated to do so.
These diving and dolphin cruises visitors are allowed to canoe and swim with dolphins before 10.30am and after 3pm. Then diving cruises must leave Sataya’s site during day tours boat’s time onsite as set above. Dolphin cruises, staying the whole week in Sataya, can still enter or remain in the lagoon between 10.30am and 3pm but must stay far away from dolphins and from all day tours kayaks-canoes.
To organise so, on the Park authorities’ Sanctuary website, there could be a calendar page with access codes for touristic operators, indicating:
· For each week, the number of dolphin cruises remaining availabilities (among the 4 allowed as a maximum) for touristic operators to easily know if they can still rent boats for such purpose or sell a dolphin cruise based on the calendar availabilities. It would be best that authorities update themselves this calendar based on ‘confirmed’ cruises as declared to them by touristic operators.
· As for diving cruises, a calendar page could also be created with 2 time slots per day: one for early morning and up to 10.30am, and one for after 3pm & overnight with sunrise departure. Operators could thus easily see what slots are available and could themselves block their wanted slots. This way, touristic operators can organise themselves and the authorities would only need to intervene as a dispute resolution support when solicited.
Having such a calendar will also ease monitoring and control as authorities will know at all times, the name of the diving cruise and of the dolphin boats allowed and supposed to be at Sataya. By making random punctual radio calls to a few boats in Sataya, authorities will be able to check if boats’ presence is according to the calendars.
Between 10.30 am and 1pm
A maximum of 100 day-tour visitors per day is thus also required at that time. We tend to think that it is best to limit visitors rather than the number of boats, as this will continue to give an equal chance to all companies to do business.
To organise so, a calendar could be set, either at the Hamata port office or as above, on a calendar page dedicated to these companies.
- Day tour operators can go to or call the port officers to make their bookings and follow up on availabilities. And once for a certain day a total of 100 bookings is reached, reservations will then be closed by port officers for that day and operators cannot sell any further ones.
- The other less human time consuming solution would be to open on the authority website also a day–tour calendar, where each day tour has an access code to view the overall number of bookings per day made by all companies, and to register and update their own bookings. Once an overall 100 bookings is reached on a certain day, the system would automatically close bookings for that day. These online bookings information could be used afterwards to bill each company for the Sataya tax entry according to the number of visitors booked each month by operators for example.
Doing daily or unexpected punctual controls of some boats at day tour embarquement to check if the number of visitors is according to the calendar would enable to monitor if touristic operators respect calendar declarations and limitations.
Doing such a calendar would also offer a clear monitoring and data collection of the number and spread of tourists among week days, weeks, months etc. which will be useful for further management adjustments if needed.
This overall organisation will enable to meet the plan’s objectives while minimizing restrictions.
Also, what happens in other wild life sites where they are such daily or weekly restrictions is that tourists tend to book more in advance and to be more homogeneously spread over the calendar. For example, for Grizzly Bears day boat tours in Telegraph cove on Vancouver Island in Canada where similar restrictions apply, hotels and/or tour operators advise customers to book the tour long in advance, to ensure availability. So in the end, on one side this creates an unexpected additional free advertising/promotion for these tours. And on the other side, saying to visitors that such tour must be booked as early as possible because they are often full also creates a greater appeal from tourists. They think that it must be really great if always fully booked. In famous wildlife places like for the Grizzly bears’ spot cited above in Canada, some tourists do even choose their holiday dates according to the availabilities of the tours to be sure they will not miss out if important to them. Such limitations on a daily basis are thus not at all limiting business/tourism but rather better spreading tourism in a more homogeneous way over days, weeks and months, and increasing the appeal and promotion for such tours.
This nevertheless could represent a certain tourism development limitation. However this will save the actual dolphin touristic business by ensuring the dolphins’ wellbeing and remaining presence in Sataya. And if the dolphin population size thrives and grows thanks to these protecting measures, this may in turn enable to offer larger touristic quotas for each dolphin touristic activity. Also, as the dolphin population increases, some pods may use different resting sites which in turn will be able offer further touristic opportunities.
· Each day
With the above organisation, visitors can swim with dolphins between 10.30 and 1pm or after 3pm or before 10.30. This means that dolphins will be free from any human presence between 1pm and 3pm. Given that, as observed onsite, dolphins tend to be quieter (either resting or sleeping) at these times in the lagoon, this dolphin break time falls at the right time.
· A day per week :
One day per week could be set as a dolphin day off with no swimming allowed with dolphins at all, and no dolphins approach closer than 30 meters on canoes or kayaks. Doing so would still enable day tours to go out for a dolphin sanctuary canoeing tour for dolphin watching and reef snorkelling etc. As we have seen in the Kaleakekua bay case, observing wild dolphins from canoes does remain an appealing excursion. As for dolphin swim cruises, given that they have the full week to swim with dolphins, such a break can be acceptable. As for diving cruises, their main focus being on diving and not on the dolphins, it can also be very acceptable for them too.
As per the best day of the week to do so, we would suggest Wednesday. There is a much lower affluence in the lagoon usually on Saturdays and Sundays. Many diving and dolphin cruises go back to Hamata port to drop a group and to wait for the next one. This days are thus calmer for dolphins. So offering a mid-week break, like on Wednesdays, as a swimming day off would somehow enable to offer a certain rest to dolphins twice a week.
It is important to limit the number of humans allowed to approach within 30 meters of dolphins based on the dolphin pod size. The number of humans must always be less or equal to the number of dolphins as a maximum, in that zone.
So if there is only a 20 dolphins’ pod within the lagoon on a certain day, there will have to be groups of 20 tourists going in turn to the dolphins to swim with them.
If for example day boats bring 100 tourists, then, as visitors will be in the lagoon for 2 hours and a half or so, 4 groups of 20 tourists shall be created to go each for 35 minutes to swim with dolphins.
Any group not swimming with dolphins shall stay 30 meters away from the dolphin pod so as to keep the situation clear in between which group is or is not with the dolphins. This will ensure an authentic encounter moment for tourists, and create less stress for dolphins. This is why as we saw above, talky-walkies among kayak guides will be helpful for them to talk to one another and organise themselves upon arrival based on the dolphin pod size.
When a group is to be waiting before approaching dolphins, then it shall be exploring the lagoon and/or snorkelling some reef. As we said early, discovering the lagoon as a natural wonder in itself shall be part of the touristic tour. There are enough beautiful snorkelling spots with corals, turtles, rays etc., along the inner and outer lagoon reef for visitors to marvel and be satisfied. Spreading the touristic day tour time between a lagoon habitat discovery time and a dolphin time will also make the tours richer as well as more fluid onsite. Visitors will thus never have the impression to be waiting for their turn to swim with dolphins.
- No more humans than dolphins within a 30 meter zone around dolphins.
- Kayaks cannot approach closer than 10 meters from dolphins.
- In that 30 to 10 meter zone, kayaks shall remain quiet and slow and be grouped all on the same side of the pod cruising/arriving in parallel of the pod.
- If dolphins themselves were to approach canoes closer than 10 meters, any paddling shall stop and there is no getting in the water. Tourists shall admire the beauty of dolphins from above on their canoes-kayaks and wait until dolphins move away again from at least 10 meters.
- 10 meters away from dolphins, tourist shall silently get in the water (leaving kayaks to the guide supervising the swim).
- Quiet slow swimming, no noise, no splashing, no yelling etc., no swim chasing of dolphins, no dolphin touching, no feeding, no free diving on calves or mother and calves
There will be situations where dolphins show signs of reluctance towards humans’ approach (on canoes or swimming). They express it by all diving and swimming close to the sea bed, or by moving away from visitors’ kayaks or swimmers, or by slapping the water with their tail.
Guides shall be informed of such situations. They shall made aware that in such case, the only way to maximise the time spent with dolphins for tourists is to respect the dolphins’ reluctance and to stay grouped and at least 10 meters away from dolphins on kayaks and to accompany them slowly. If guides do not propose so, dolphins will move further away and a as kayaks and swimmers are way too slow to keep up with them, they will lose their chance to be close to dolphins.
If guides explain on the boats previously to kayaking that such situation may happen to tourists, its meaning and that they will propose to do so to visitors in such case to maximise their dolphin encounter, then tourists will both understand, accept and be satisfied to do so. They will have learned something about dolphins’ behaviours, and know they got the best out the situation.
A plastic protected brochure containing all dolphins’ approach and swim rules and the above minimum dolphin behaviour tips and advises to maximise the encounter as explained above shall be distributed to all touristic operators (in all languages) for them to present it to customers orally and to pass it around tourists on their boat. A short presentation/training of the above to at least all day boats would be valuable.
Basic stickers to be put on canoes could be given by the authorities to each touristic company, containing a colour and number. The colour would indicate the touristic type of activity (day cruise / diving / dolphin cruise) and the number would be associated to each boat/company.
It would thus be very easy for guides and tourists while in the lagoon to see if canoes respects their associated schedules thanks to the colours and to tell them do so if required. Also, in case of any infringement, a simple photo/video of the situation would allow the authorities or to immediately identify the associated company thanks to the number on the canoe sticker.
- No garbage dump at sea allowed in the lagoon surroundings,
- No boats or zodiacs cleaning (for water pollution reasons due to the products used etc.).
- Zodiac shall make the least possible noise and be at low speed
- All motorised tourist types of activities shall be prohibited (no water-ski, no pulling tourist on buoys behind zodiacs, no Seado types of equipment etc).
ü Visiting the Sataya Wild Dolphin Sanctuary shall require for all touristic companies a special commercial/touristic permit or licence delivered by the site authorities. Permits delivered shall include the description of all specific laws, management rules, processes and limitations applying to the lagoon.
o Having such mandatory new special commercial licence/permit in place for touristic operators will also enable :
§ A direct contact and information flow between the licenced touristic operators and the lagoon management team. It is precious as their feedback will be very valuable to always continue adjust solutions which best combine both the dolphin’s protection and tourism.
§ Also, if the sanctuary rules need to be adjusted or new rules implemented along with time, then these can easily be included at permit/licence renewal if granted on an annual basis for example, easing such process for the authorities.
ü All sataya visits must be organised via the calendars and according to these calendars
ü visits to sataya must be according to all rules as set in the previous paragraphs.
As we saw earlier, authorities can easily do regular controls on the boats being at Sataya via a simple radio call to any boat’s captain to ask which boats are onsite. As for day boats, punctual or regular embarquement counts of tourists would also enable so.
Additionally, creating a ‘reporting’ button/page for anyone to declare an infringement on the authority website will be important concerning onsite monitoring. Such page shall allow an anonymous reporting (personal contact shall not be required but only be proposed as optional). It shall also offer the possibility to upload attachments for photos or short videos based proves of a wrong situation observed. The fear of being reported by anyone including tourists themselves combined with severe consequences (see below) will deter such practices while not requiring any onsite monitoring from the authorities.
The sanctuary authorities shall be entitled to suspend or cancel the commercial/touristic Sataya sanctuary permits in case rules and regulations are infringed. Also, the marine park authorities will need to be supported by appropriate Egyptian authorities to define an appropriate consequence for boats coming to Sataya without any permit. The consequences of the major types of possible rules’ infringements shall be clearly defined and highlighted within the sanctuary authority website. The gravity of the consequences shall be strong enough to deter all touristic actors from intending so.
Consequences of below infringement of each management rule shall be clearly announced:
- The case of a boat being in Sataya (whether anchored or not) with no permit, or not according to calendar as per the date/time or its number of visitors
- A motorized boat entering the lagoon (except for a real emergency)
- No respect of all safety measures inside the lagoon
- No respect of all dolphins’ canoeing approach and swim with rules
- No respect of the environmental rules
Creating such type of wild dolphins sanctuary aims at protecting dolphins. Nevertheless, if no further accurate data and follow up over the dolphin pod wellness and evolution is available, it will be difficult for the authorities to know when and what adjustments may be required overtime according to the dolphins’ needs.
Setting up a regular data collection on dolphins represents a critical monitoring tool for the authorities to ensure the sustainability of the dolphin pod and of their use of Sataya as a resting habitat.
Monitoring required in a nutshell:
- Dolphin’s pod size and attendance to the lagoon and its evolution over time
- Dolphins’ activities inside the lagoon: type and duration of each activity (sleep, rest, socialize etc.)
- Dolphin’s pod health and evolution
- Dolphins’ reaction to human presence and interactions.
We are open to discuss and provide support for such continuous study in various ways as you may need:
- Either by just providing the list of data and the data collection process required for the authority to organise and do so. And then propose the collaboration of our partnering scientific team to analyse the data and provide a regular report.
- Or we can also organise the study set up, data collection and scientific analysis to directly provide a regular report to the authorities.
Canoes / kayaks:
- Day tours and dolphin cruise boats will need to invest in canoes or kayaks (solid and strong double or triple canoes/kayaks will be the most cost effective long term investment).
- As for diving cruises companies which only do stop-overs at Sataya or are only occasionally used for dolphin cruises, they may choose to invest in ultra-light inflatable kayaks which are cheaper and easy to store on boats once folded.
Note: paddle boards (whether inflatable or not) and very small boats powered by human paddling and any other kind of similar non-motorized water transport means can also be authorized.
Only day tours may need to adjust their number of guides (if the new rule imposes a canoeing guide mandatory inside the lagoon per 10 or 12 tourists which is the same as the actual ratio observed for zodiacs in Sataya).
As for life jacket, they are already mandatory on all vessels and for all passengers so no further investment is required from operators. These same life jackets can be used.
As for talky-walkies, some companies already have some, and others will need to invest in them. However the investment is very low as not many are required (it is only for the canoeing guides plus one for the main boat), and their cost is rather low.
Covering these costs:
Sataya becoming a Wild Dolphins Sanctuary and its appeal and value as such being perceived by tourists as higher, tourists will thus be ready to pay their tour a little more. So a slight price increase of all touristic activities could rapidly cover such investments.
a) Initial set up investments:
- The creation and management of a website both with all sanctuary information available to everyone, as well as some pages dedicated to touristic operators with an access-code containing calendars to manage the number of boats/tourists for:
o Dolphin cruise on a weekly basis
o Diving cruise on a daily basis
o Day tours on a daily basis (unless it is done by Hamata port officers)
- Other minor initial financial set up investments for:
o Coloured buoys (or just use empty plastic barrels of 2 different colours) to replace the one on the existing anchorages outside of Sataya so as to clearly indicate the 2 different types of anchorages.(short stay day/dive boats versus long stay dolphin cruise boats)
o Basic stickers with a colour enabling to identify the type of tourism (day boat/dolphin cruise/ diving cruse) and a number enabling to identify the associated touristic operator/main boat.
o Day boats plasticised multi-language leaflets presenting the code of conduct for dolphins’ approach both on canoes and swimming, and how to identify when dolphins are reluctant and what to do then.
- Set up of the dolphin study (human time and costs for data collection and analysis)) unless is done via the cooperation with an external body (as we proposed earlier).
- Present and share the new sanctuary information with the appropriate Tourism department(s)
- Inform all touristic operators, run a short presentation/training to day boats, create and allocate the Sanctuary new touristic permits, canoes stickers, and multi-language leaflets.
b) Ongoing investments once the project is up and running: financial & human
- Sataya Sanctuary touristic permit management (permits’ renewal, suspension/revocation, sticker and leaflets replacement)
- Website updates and follow up, helpline/interface for touristic operators
- Boats and visitors’ controls on a regular basis (by counting tourist on boats at Hamata for day boats and by simple radio calls to control the presence of diving/dolphin boats at Sataya)
- An annual overall review of the touristic and dolphins evolution to study and decide is some changes are needed or not.
Given that there is already an entry fees collected for the visit to Sataya, we do not mention it as it is not a new task for the authorities.
The direct upfront financial investments are thus very low and could easily be financed by the Sanctuary entry fees. The human time investment from the site authority at set up and then when ongoing are also rather low.
This report highlighted that there can be a simple but effective solution combining both long term high value tourism and dolphins’ protection at the same time. Such solution can be rolled out in a rather short time span implying low investments from the authorities as well as low management and monitoring costs to be sustained once settled.
Shall the authorities need further details or information on any part of this report, or additional inputs whether on this proposed plan or any other approach to protect the lagoon and its dolphins, please contact the author.
Human-cetacean Interaction & Tourism Management
Master in International Business (ESC Rennes Business School, France)
MBA in International Business (University of Western Sydney, Australia)
Specialty Degree in Ethology and Human-Animal Mediation (University of Paris Descartes, Paris)
Correspondence should be addressed to:
Valérie VALTON – 10 rue des artistes - 75014 Paris France
Tel: + 33 6 63 00 43 52
Source: Frommers ‘website : https://www.frommers.com/trip-ideas/beach-water-sports/our-picks-for-swimming-with-dolphins-around-the-world
“We've selected a few locations that provide ocean swimming experiences with an eco-friendly outlook that don't over-exploit these creatures or their habitat. Although a 100% money-back guarantee of being able to swim with the dolphins is never explicitly offered, most companies boast 99% success rates or offer free additional trips if you are not satisfied with your tour. Obviously the warmer the water, the more enjoyable your experience may be, although we have included a few cooler options where a wet suit may make your dip in the ocean more comfortable.
· Key West, Florida
There are a few operators that run dolphin inspired tours off the coast of Florida's Key West in the warmer Gulf waters. Wild Dolphin Adventures (tel. 866/296-3737; www.wilddolphinadventures.com) offer morning and afternoon trips for $85 per person plus tax for four-hours during daylight saving periods, or three-hours during the rest of the year. A 3% discount applies for trips paid in cash. Or if you would prefer, organize your own private charter for up to six people for $450 plus tax for four-hours or $775 for eight-hours. These charters can include visits to remote island beaches, snorkeling on coral reefs and shipwrecks.
· Oahu, Hawaii
If you are bound for the Hawaiian Islands and can drag yourself away from the beach, a magical Pacific Ocean dolphin experience awaits you with Wildside Specialty Tours (tel. 808/306-7273; www.sailhawaii.com/wildside.html). Setting sail from Waianae Boat Harbor, the tour boats take a maximum of 16 passengers for either a four-hour morning tour or a three-hour evening cruise. All cruises can combine a variety of marine life encounters (including spinner dolphins, turtles and/or whales) with snorkeling, swimming or just wildlife viewing. The price is $95 per person plus tax, with a 15% discount for a group of five or more people (children are the same price as adults). Private charters are also available for $350 per hour with a three-hour minimum for up to 10 passengers, and $60 per person thereafter. All tours include snacks, beverages and use of the snorkel gear provided.
· Bimini, Bahamas
The Bahamas is one of the many Caribbean island groups to offer dolphin-swimming tours. Bimini was the setting for Ernest Hemingway's Islands In The Stream, but there's more than game-fishing here. If you are serious about your desire to get up close and personal with these marine mammals, then Dolphin Expeditions' (tel. 877/597-1800; www.dolphinexpeditions.com) six-night/seven-day boat trip may be just what you are looking for. Staying on board the Calypso Spirit, the boat can accommodate six to ten passengers plus facilitators in either king or queen size double occupancy staterooms with three heads (that's a toilet to you landlubbers). They are currently taking reservations for December 17 and 28, 2004 trips, which cost $995.00 per person with most meals included. Additional costs are a $15 Bahamian departure tax and a $40 Bahamian environmental tax, both paid locally.
You can get to Bimini, the take off point for this tour, from Fort Lauderdale (from the Executive Airport, which is 20 minutes by taxi from the International airport). Charter Airline, Bimini Island Airlines (tel. 954/938-8991) flies every Saturday and returns on Fridays with a roundtrip ticket costing $190. Alternatively, Chalks International Airlines (tel. 800/424-2557), a seaplane service, also flies to Bimini from Fort Lauderdale for approximately $240 round trip.
· Drake Bay, Costa Rica
Swim with dolphins in the marine heaven that is found in Drake Bay off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Considered to be one of the most cetacean-rich areas in the world, the marine life here is abundant with pods of pan-tropic spotted, bottlenose, spinner and common dolphins as well as humpback, pilot, sperm and blue whales, giant manta rays, sea turtles and more. The Delfin Amor Wild Dolphin Encounters (www.divinedolphin.com) are run through the Delfin Armor Eco Lodge (www.delfinamor.com) and cost $95 for a full day, including lunch. You can fax 866-527-5558 toll free or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The nearby Drake Bay Wilderness Resort (tel. 561/762-1763 in the US; www.drakebay.com/dolphin_tour.html) also runs dolphin interaction tours as well as Whale and Dolphin Watch Packages. The four-day with three-night package includes two-day whale and dolphin watch trips, boat transportation to and from Drake Bay Airport, hotel lodging, three home-cooked meals each day and tours with bilingual guides for $726 per person. They can also arrange your flight to and from San Jose/Pavas airport for an additional $170 per person.
Airfare Planet (tel. 888/204 8869; www.airfareplanet.com) has roundtrip flights from New York to San Jose, Costa Rica from January 15 until March 31, 2005 for $446, or $508 from Los Angeles.
· Kaikoura, New Zealand
The South Pacific Ocean may be a little chillier, but with marine life in abundance, you may be willing to overlook the temperature fluctuation to experience the Southern Hemisphere dolphins. Dolphin Encounter (tel. +64/3/319-6534; www.dolphin.co.nz/our_tours.htm) runs specialized dolphin boat tours every day of the year (weather permitting) from Kaikoura, located on New Zealand's South Island, some 110 miles from Christchurch. Although dusky dolphins are most prolific in these waters, the dolphin tours often encounter other marine mammals such as Orcas (killer whales), pilot whales, New Zealand Fur Seals, and Hector's Dolphins. Three-hour tours include guided commentary and the boats are fitted with hot showers and covered areas for protection against the elements. Boats take 13 swimmers and up to 20 watchers, with November to April being the busy tourist season. Prices are $80 for swimming adults ($42 to observe) and $73 for children under 15 ($35 for non-swimmers).
From the US, Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) has roundtrip direct flights on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles from $903 in December 2004. From Christchurch, regular trains (www.travelink.co.nz/nz/trainKaikoura.html) and buses (www.tourism.net.nz/region/christchurch/transport/bus-and-coach-services) service the route to Kaikoura.
· The Azores, Portugal
The Azores is a group of nine volcanic islands situated along the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge, halfway between North America and Europe. These islands belong to Portugal, which is about a three-hour flight or 950 miles to the east. Pico Island is considered one of the most beautiful of the Azorean islands, and it is in this remote location, that some of the best dolphin swimming sessions can be experienced. Also common are whales, turtles, sunfish and Blue Marlin.
Pico Sport (www.whales-dolphins.net/azores_en/swimming_en.html; e-mail email@example.com) operates the island's dolphin contact swimming tours during the summer to early fall seasons. A three-hour trip costs $65 per person or $48 per person with bookings of groups of four or more. The use of scuba gear is strictly forbidden in Azorean waters so dolphins are observed closer to the water's surface using the snorkeling equipment provided. Guesthouse and hotel accommodations on Pico Island (through Pico Sport) start from $545 for seven-nights from June to September 2005.
With the remoteness of this island group, come the slightly longer flights and connections. From the US to Lisbon, Iberia (tel. 800/772-4642; www.iberia.com) has the cheapest fares (via Madrid). From New York to Lisbon in June 2005, a roundtrip flight including taxes is $576. Grupo Sata (www.sata.pt) has flights from Lisbon via Ponta Delgada to Pico Island for $450 roundtrip. As of April 2005, Sata will introduce direct flights from the mainland (fares unavailable at this time).”
1. US government Fisheries Department website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/enhancing-protections-hawaiian-spinner-dolphins
Frommers website : https://www.frommers.com/trip-ideas/beach-water-sports/our-picks-for-swimming-with-dolphins-around-the-world
3. Extract from WWF: “The 2015 Eurobarometer further confirmed that more than 80% of Europeans are concerned about the loss of biodiversity”. (WWF, BirdLife International, Friends of the Earth Europe, and European Environmental Bureau.(2015). Nature Legislation: Fit for Purpose and in Need of Action. http://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/wwf_5020_ngo_policiypaper_final_print.pdf.
4. From “The case of Responsible travel: Trends & statistics 2016: “During the past ten years, tourism dynamics have been radically altered. The consolidation of globalization, the generalized use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), progress in transportation infrastructures, changes in clients’ habits and preferences, and their huge power as opinion leaders on social networks are changing the dynamics of supply and demand within the tourism market. (https://www.responsibletravel.org/whatWeDo/The_Case_for_Responsible_Travel_2016_Final.pdf)
5. The Guardian, Article by Damian Carrington, First published on Mon 29 Sep 2014 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf
6. From “The case of Responsible travel: Trends & statistics 2016 page 3: “Nature-based tourism accounts for about 20% of total international travel and continues to grow, according to the UNWTO”. “Research studies continue to show that travellers prefer companies that embed green or eco-friendly practices into their operations. Travelers are coming to expect that tourism businesses will become sustainable” and “The percentage of consumers who are willing to pay more for sustainable brands that showed commitment to social and environmental values went up from 55% to 66% between 2014 and 2015. About 73% of the younger generations --Millennials and Generation Z --are more likely to pay more for sustainability, compared to 51% of Baby Boomers. https://www.responsibletravel.org/whatWeDo/The_Case_for_Responsible_Travel_2016_Final.pdf
7. Extract from The Potential Economic Impacts of the “Proposed Central Coast National Marine Sanctuary” Prepared for the Sierra Club of California By Jason Scorse, Ph.D. and Judith Kildow, Ph.D. September 2014 “Much of this tourism would exist even without Sanctuary designation, but there are two ways in which it can increase it. The first is by simply signalling to the wider community that the resources in the particular area governed by the Sanctuary are special and worthy of a trip. The designation also provides an opportunity for promotion and marketing, a signal that something special is in the region that is worth visiting. Over the longer term, the extent to which Sanctuary regulations and management policies protect and improve the conservation of the region’s ocean and coastal resources can help maintain and increase tourist visitation rates, along with the economic benefits they bring (Osso2014) https://www.sierraclub.org/sites/www.sierraclub.org/files/sce/santa-lucia-chapter/news/Econ_Report_for_Sierra_Club_9-25-14.pdf
8. From Wikipedia website: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_des_plus_belles_baies_du_monde
10. Downs CA, Kramarsky-Winter E, Segal R, et al. Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter,Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 2015 Oct 20. doi: 10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7. https://link.springer.com/journal/volumesAndIssues/244
11. Exposure to bisphenol A, chlorophenols, benzophenones, and parabens in relation to reproductive hormones in healthy women: A chemical mixture approach. Pollack AZ, Mumford SL, Krall JR, Carmichael AE, Sjaarda LA, Perkins NJ, Kannan K, Schisterman EF. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30092451
Other studies cited:
· Norris and Dohl 1980: Norris K.S. and Dohl T.P. (1980) Behavior of the Hawaiian spinner dolphin, Stenella longirostris. Fishery Bulletin 77, 821–849.
· Wells and Norris 1994 Wursig et al. 1994: The Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Berkeley: University of California Press.
· Bejder et al., 2006; Bejder et al., In press: Decline in relative abundance of bottlenose dolphins exposed to long term disturbance (Conservation Biology Volume **, No. *, ***–***©2006 Society for Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00540.x)