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Dolphins of Ponta



In the Maputo National Park - we get four main species of dolphins. For the purpose of our in-water encounters it is the bottlenose dolphin that we focus on - these are the dolphins we have longterm relationships with!

Dolphins, like humans have a fingerprint and although sometimes we have to wait for the fingerprint to form, each animal as time goes by develops a unique and individualised dorsal fin. 

The fin is made up of cartilage that is easily nicked, torn and tattered. Notches on the leading edge of the fin are generally caused from the dolphin swimming into something ie: fishing gut or rope and notches on the trailing edge are caused from ware and tear, rough socializing amongst themselves or shark encounters.


Coupled with this; scarring, broken jaws, pigmentation and various other elements are also used for identification. This is achieved by both top and in water photography and videography.

The id project allows us to build accurate profiles of individuals and their associations. This information is made available to various researchers and organisations in the field and has been used by both Mozambican and foreign students in studies.

Strandings of other species of dolphins in the area include Rissos, Striped, Frasers, and Common bottlenose.

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Spotted dolphins occur within the Reserve and are often sighted in the company of the Spinners, usually seen offshore. They get their name from a spotting pattern that develops as they age. The elders can be recognisable through their white lips. The have a long narrow beak  & dark cape extending above the eyes. With age the belly darkens and speckling starts, followed by white spotting on the back. With age the spots fuse. We do not attempt in-water encounters with this species as they have not been habituated.


ICUN: Lower Risk, conservation dependant

SA Red Data Book: Data Deficient

Dolphins of Ponta
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Long Snouted Spinner  are by far the most acrobatic dolphin in the sea. The acrobatic 360 degree spins are how the spinner dolphin received their name. Spinners are slender and small in comparison to the inshore cousins and have a long and slender beak edged with black margins. We do not attempt in-water encounters with them as they have not been habituated.


ICUN: Lower Risk, conservation dependant

SA Red Data Book: Data Deficient

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Are characterised by being slightly smaller than the oceanic bottlenose cousins (Tursiops truncatus) with a longer, pronounced beak and falcate dorsal fin. Like their spotted cousins these dolphins also begin freckling on their bellies as they reach sexual maturity.  The older the dolphin, the more fused the freckling. Varying shades of grey coloration are found and they have a cape that runs from behind the head with some individuals having distinct dark eye patches. They have a lifespan that can be comparable to ours, living as long as 45+ years in the wild with a fully mature adult measuring 2,5 meters in length and weighing 190kg’s. 


Red List (ICUN): Data Deficient 

SA Red Data Book: Vulnerable

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The occurrence of the shy and illusive humpback dolphin in the Reserve has been recorded for the past decade. This endangered species is seen normally in association with the gregarious bottlenose dolphin in small groups <5.

They are distinguishable by being much lighter grey in coloration, have a long elongated beak and a distinctive fleshy hump in close proximity to a rather small and squat dorsal fin. Broad flippers with rounded tip. A distinct line extends from flipper to eye. Calves born light grey - darkening with age. Beak our surfacing is characteristic of this species. 



Red List (ICUN): Near threatened

SA Red Data Book: Data Deficient

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(Megaptera novaeangliae)
The Humpback whale is a baleen whale, meaning that they have no teeth, rather a series of baleen plates with fine hairs that they use to filter the water for the likes of krill, plankton and small fish. They consume vast numbers of small organisms by vacuum-cleaning the ocean. The Humpback Whale has a short and squat dorsal fin and ventral pleats that run from the lower jaw to belly. They are dark on top with varying shades white on the belly, tail and flippers. Knob like tubicals can be found on and around the head, chin and jaw. 


SIZE: 10m = 14,9 tonnes
DISTRIBUTION: Occurs throughout the Southern African Subregion
BALEEN: 300 pairs of plates
DIET: Krill, shrimp like crustaceans; small fish (1 - 1,2 tons p/day)
LONGEVITY: ± 45 to 50 years
GESTATION: ± 12 months
MATURITY: ± 13m in length


Red List (ICUN): Vulnerable 



(Eubalaena australis) ​

The Southern Right Whale received its name as it was the ‘right’ whale to hunt during whaling. They are distinguishable from Humpbacks by having a broad back and no dorsal fin, they have callosities on their heads (which are used for identification proposes) and a large arching mouth that starts above the eye. These whales have a reputation for being particularly curious towards humans! Although only a few sightings have been had of this species it provides evidence that southern right whales are using the coastal waters of Mozambique again.


SIZE: 10,78 = 16,34 tonnes

DISTRIBUTION: South of 20º S
TEETH: ± 37 pairs
DIET: Krill, copepods & small crustacea

LONGEVITY:  ±50 to 70
GESTATION:  ± 12 to 13 months 

MATURITY: ± 14m in length



Red List (ICUN): Conservation dependent

Strandings & Skeletons of Ponta

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Specimen collection began on the 25 November 1997 when the first dolphin body was retrieved from the beach in Ponta do Ouro. ​Stranded marine mammals are important to science as some species that strand have never been recorded alive in our water before, like the True Beaked whale, Frasers and Striped Dolphins!


To date 44 stranded marine megafauna have been recorded. This includes majority dolphins followed by whales, turtles, whale sharks and even a seal.


Some of these skeletons are on display at the Education Center and over time more will be added together with information boards detailing species and occurrence etc in the ara.


Retrieving animals off the beach requires special permission. Our Center has been working with both the Reserve and the Natural History Museum in Maputo and have a MOU for this purpose. After measurements and samples are taken animals are wrapped in shade cloth and buried. Biological degradation then takes place as the elements and various organisms break the body down. After some time ±1-2yrs the animals are then excavated, bones cleaned, soaked in a solution and then sun-dried with salt water to whiten up the bones. 

Turtles of Ponta

HISTORY:  In 1999 Dolphin was approached by a young Mozambican by the name of Osvaldo who was a student at UEM and thus saw the birth of a longterm turtle monitoring project in Ponta do Ouro. Later years found us teaming up with local organisations AICM, CTV and the Mozambique Turtle working group to further the monitoring. Together with All Out Africa and a number of volunteers the project continued under the wings of Dolphin until 2009, after-which management was taken over by the newly proclaimed reserve who’s partnership with the PeaceParks foundation guaranteed greater coverage and more man-power.


Dolphin continues to support the turtle monitoring project by means of partial salaries for the three monitors in Ponta do Ouro and data management and entry. Guided walks are not available in Ponta do Ouro at this stage and one is asked not to disturb turtles when seen on the beach. Failure to comply with this will result in a large fine by the reserve if caught.

The project runs annually between October & March and involves monitoring nesting females & hatchling sites. The Turtle Monitoring Program requires regular monitoring of an 8km stretch of beach (Kosi Bay border to Ponat Malongane Point). This is done through nightly walks during the turtle nesting and hatchling seasons (October to January & January to March, respectively).


Local monitors & volunteers ensure the collection of data the safe tagging of nesting females. Species monitored include Loggerhead and Leatherbacks turtles. The purpose is to locate new turtle nests, measure nesting females, record the tag number for previously tagged individuals, tag those that are not, check nest locations as hatching time approaches, examine recently emerged nests for number of eggs laid, number of non-viable eggs, hatchlings that did not make it out of the nest, and assist those that are struggling to emerge.


We educate on the risks and negatives of poaching turtles and their eggs, and the impact of human actions on turtles (i.e. rubbish, quad bikes, driving on the beach, lights, disturbance, etc). Local monitoring provides a presence on the beach to deter turtle and egg poaching activities.

The monitoring within the Park is supported by the PeaceParks foundation, together with Centro Terra Viva, Ministry of Tourism (MITUR), Pierre Lombard and Family, Machangulo Group and Dolphin Encountours Research Center.

The 2022/3 season is for Ponta do Ouro is proudly sponsored by DP World in Maputo who have assisted with monitor salary contributions and gear.

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Whales of Ponta
Skeletons of Ponta
Turtles of Ponta

Whales of Ponta



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