Satayeh is an important tourist destination but, more significantly, its calm waters are used by dolphins as a resting spot. This explains its vast popularity among tourists since a dolphin encounter is known to be one of the most wonderful experiences in the water. The purpose of this letter is to address a crisis which Satayeh is facing today.
The problem mainly revolves around the continuous disturbance of the dolphins in which both boat crew and visitors take part in. When you get to Satayeh early in the morning, you notice large groups of dolphins slowly moving as one unit across the lagoons. Within several hours you start seeing safari boats entering the lagoons with their zodiacs. Minutes later, these zodiacs become packed with visitors and are ready for long periods of chasing the animals. The sound associated with these visits is devastating to dolphins as they are primarily acoustic animals. They depend on sound detection for orientation, communication and other daily activities. Zodiac boats emit noise which is perceived as acoustic pollution by the animals, resulting in their dispersal thereby potentially making them lose track of each other. Not only that, but as such vulnerable animals, the intense sound results in more anxiousness and tense behaviour among the dolphins. The fact that Satayeh is a shallow water body results in a more intense propagation of the engine sounds which further stresses the animals. Besides noise, the behaviour of the tourists withholds the dolphins from their needed rest.
In my opinion, solving this problem is within our capabilities. It is necessary to inform the visitors of the vulnerability of dolphins to sudden movements, splashes and noise. A certain distance of the visitors to the animals must be kept to avoid their disturbance. Furthermore, the use of zodiacs should be restricted to eliminate the sounds created. People should always remember that the highlight of Satayeh is that they get to see dolphins in their natural habitat. If we will interfere with their activities, then we would be abolishing the real beauty of this place as a dolphin resting spot and consequently losing the visitors as well.
Nevin El Nadi (HEPCA intern)