Taking a spin with 'spinners'

MOOREA -- The Dolphin and Whale-Watch Expedition program on this island is so popular, Windstar had to schedule two tours to accommodate everyone.

The tour is led by marine biologist Michael Poole, who moved to Moorea 14 years ago to study the island's resident spinner dolphin population.

Unlike other "dolphin encounters" in controlled settings, these dolphins are free spirits. But Poole showed that he can identify individuals by the markings on their fins as they come up for air and when they breach and "spin" above the water.

Poole's animated educational talk was punctuated over and over by the exclamations of excited guests -- "dolphins, 11 o'clock" -- as the objects of our search popped up on all sides of the speedboat.

For those interested in seeing whales, they can be found here during their "winter" months, July through October.

We left the tour impressed by Poole's knowledge, not only of dolphins but of the islands' culture. His interest in the culture is personal. Moorea's Tahitian wife, Mareva Tepau, is one of the traditional dance entertainers on the ship. -- R.T.

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