Get Paid to Play With Dolphins

There is something magical about encountering dolphins. Perhaps it is the mammal connection between the two species or maybe it is the thrill of seeing such wonderful creatures in their natural environment.

There is no doubt a dolphin encounter lifts the soul and provides an awe inspiring experience. Watching a group quietly cruising along or marveling at their high leaps, back-flips, somersaults and side-slaps during social bouts, is sure to please young and old alike.

On the northern point of the South Island of New Zealand lie the Marlborough Sounds. The sheltered areas provide a spectacular scenic backdrop for viewing these amazing creatures. The Sounds are one of the most incredible areas in New Zealand. The nutrient-rich waters attract a wide variety of dolphins, fur seals and seabirds.

Dolphin Watch Eco-tours provide year-round tours and a number of species can be seen in the sounds. These include Dusky dolphins, Bottle-nose dolphins, Common dolphins and even rare Hector’s dolphins at different times of the year.

There is also the thrill for anyone with a camera to try to capture these amazing creatures in a memorable photograph. Almost every camera is capable of capturing some great images. The dolphins usually play in the wake of the boat so leaps and somersaults can often be seen to each side of the boat. But the key is timing—pressing your shutter button at the decisive moment as the dolphin leaps through the wake in playful mood. It’s a thrill trying to capture such a moment and even more of a thrill when you “nail it” and are able to compare images with fellow tourists.

Another great photo opportunity is to the front and sides of the boat as the dolphins weave there way under the hull, playfully racing the boat. Sometimes they turn on their side to check out the occupants of the vessel.

I got started in this industry through a “lucky break.” I was 16 and I landed a job in the darkroom of the Yorkshire Post newspaper in Leeds, England. I quickly got the photography bug and have been passionately shooting pictures for 30 years. My passion has always been sport, but as a freelance for the past three years I have been combining my love of travel and sports photography. It’s a wonderful thing in this digital age to be able to shoot and travel and file from anywhere to anyone.

My favorite photography trip was to Vanuatu and the remote Pacific island of Pentecost. For three months of the year, the tradition of land diving takes place. A tower is built from timber and vines collected from the hills around a dive site, between March and June when the vines are strong.

Each Saturday, or when tourist cruise ships visit the Island throughout these months, the local tribes gather to perform “land diving”—a stunning sporting spectacle. A vine is tied to each ankle of the divers and the men and boys dive from different levels, some as high as 10 meters. They hurl themselves off the platform, diving at the solid ground below. They are saved only by the vines which pull them back from the jaws of death, inches from the ground.

Land diving is an ancient tradition on the island and the divers are rewarded for their dives by tourists who pay to watch. The divers are paid according to which jump level platform they dive off, which ranges from around $6 from the lowest platform to $30 for diving from the highest platform. But the money doesn’t go to the individual; it goes to the village of the diver to help support that community.

I lived with the land divers for a couple of weeks; the experience was incredible. Seeing and recording such an amazing custom still performed by the tribesmen was an experience I will never forget.

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