Expedition Narcondam : Dolphins

When I started bird watching many years ago, one of the curious birds that I read about was the Narcondam hornbill. Why the name?

Well it turns out, this hornbill is endemic to this small little 6.8 sq km extinct volcanic island named Narcondam island between Andaman islands and Burma. Can you imagine? The whole species of a big bird like the hornbill (some people even call it a honorary mammal) is found in this tiny little island. Since then, the goal was set. Visiting this island and exploring this went into my bucket list. It took more than 5 years for that dream to come true.

It took more than a year of planning, applying for permits and constituting the team for this trip. Finally it was a small team of scientists, photographers and forest dept official. The plan was to spend few days on the island and assess the situation of the island, the endangered hornbills and also look at some of the other wildlife that this island holds along with all the coral and marine stuff around the island.

So here is the first of series of posts about this expedition.

Day 1 (12th April 2010)

All of us reached Port blair two days before to pack, plan and setup things for the expedition. We chartered a sail boat/yacht from thailand to go on this expedition. We left port blair very early and set sail. Since the winds were not favorable, we could not use the sail and had to use the engine which meant we could only do a speed of 6 knots. After few hours, we were out in the open ocean with endless horizons on all sides. Past lunch, we suddenly saw this pod of spinner dolphins playing in the ocean. We slowed down and the the whole pod came towards to boat to play with us.

See this video to know why they are called spinner dolphins and its quite clear that they were just having fun. I shot this footage with a Nikon D90.

After the initial jumps, they swam in front of the bow of the boat for many kilometers. Dolphins love to ride on the waves that bow of boats create.

A pod of spinner dolphins swimming with the boat

Bow-sailing: A very favorite activity of dolphins (thats my foot in the frame)

One of the dolphin breathing with its blow-hole

Only these two remained in front of us after a while

And the last one that left us and went away

We also came across a pod of Pilot whales. No great photographs as we saw them only late in the evening just after sunset. We reached the island only the next day afternoon. More about the island in the next post.

Update : Since many of you asked, here is the wallpaper version of the last image


  1. Sandeep R · April 21, 2010 Reply

    ‘spinner’ dolphins, fantastic to see.. the sea blue and the sunlight.. simply brilliant!

  2. uberVU - social comments · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by kalyanvarma: The first set of photographs of dolphins from the Narcondam trip http://bit.ly/cZAp7d

  3. Aarti · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Wow, the Spinner Dolphins are gorgeous.. 🙂

  4. KP · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Brilliant. Esp, the last two pics.

  5. Souparna · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Very nice images. Though my favorite is the last pic. There is something about the tiny rings of water on the dolphin, and the wavy lines on the top corner.. Has a sense of calmness to it. Love the shot! 🙂

    Wondering what the black shadow on the bottom is though?

  6. Jeevan · April 21, 2010 Reply

    wow. its beautiful. I adored the last one in particular

    It has got 2 center points. one on the left, as a water turbulence, and one one the right- that is the dolphin. Way to go 🙂

  7. Sandesh · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Loved the last shot. Gray & white Dolphin on the beautiful blue water with the waves & the small ripples near the Dolphin. Just Awesome!!! May I request for a Desktop Wallpaper version? 🙂

  8. Kosha · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Wow! Amazing pictures! Love them! The last one is just out of this world 🙂

  9. sushma · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Wow!! Great pictures. I love Dolplin 🙂

  10. Monish · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Superb set of pictures and nice writeup …waiting for the complete set of pictures and the article…

  11. Neelima · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Whoa! The blue sea and those beautiful dophins.. must be a very nice experience..

    Needless to say.. awesome pictures.. 🙂
    Waiting for more pictures from the kutty island.

  12. Radha · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Beautiful! Beautiful!

  13. Goutham · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Hi Kalyan,

    Very nice post , as usual images are amazing.
    waiting for the next post. 🙂


  14. Tharangini · April 21, 2010 Reply

    If it looks so awesome in the video… to see it live must have been quite an amazing experience… 🙂

  15. Pramod Viswanath · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Class man! Last image is one to cherish for life time. Composition and colors are just perfect! Love this series.

  16. Karthik · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Wow!! Awesome pics man.. Especially the last one 🙂

  17. Ritesh Bagul · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Amazing to see them through your lens….Hats off for the last image.

  18. Kavitha Prabhu · April 21, 2010 Reply

    loved the pics..the last one is my desktop background now 🙂

  19. Raju V · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Great images Kalyan! you must have had a great time photographing wildlife there..

  20. pradeep · April 21, 2010 Reply

    amazing.. waiting for the complete story

  21. Gautham · April 21, 2010 Reply

    Awesome Kalyan!! What lovely colors, compo!

  22. mixdev · April 22, 2010 Reply

    Fantastic pics. Amazing creatures. Wondering what gene makes them spin like that?

    Looking forward to see your island stuff in detail.

  23. Avinash KJ · April 22, 2010 Reply

    Wow brilliant Pics.. Loved the Video ! Is that off D700 ?

  24. Sagarika · April 22, 2010 Reply

    Amazing pictures, love the water colour!

  25. Sameer · April 22, 2010 Reply

    Just love the tranquility in the last one … save the best for the last,eh? Wonderful, brilliant as always!

  26. Rashmi · April 22, 2010 Reply

    Simply amazing! The last pic – serenity captured in a frame. I also liked the third one. That’s called pushing yourself to the edge – literally :-)With the boat moving to match the speed of the dolphins, it must have been quite a thing to do.

  27. Sanal Kumar · April 22, 2010 Reply

    simply awesome…:)

    following the nature can be amazing..which can teach u things which u can never ever anywhere else..this is life

  28. Gayathri · April 22, 2010 Reply

    wow… beautiful it is, for a moment there I could feel the sea…Thanks for sharing with us, your amazing pictures.

  29. Anilkumar GT · April 22, 2010 Reply

    awesome pics kalyan…i really love the last two pics…..

  30. Ashwini Kumar Bhat · April 22, 2010 Reply

    Fantastic series Kalyan! Truly amazing. Eagerly looking for the next posts…

  31. Pankaj Sekhsaria · April 23, 2010 Reply

    great stuff kalyan!

  32. maya · April 23, 2010 Reply

    sun and sand and dolphins..hmmm

  33. lakshmi · April 24, 2010 Reply

    beautiful pics..esplly the one where the dolphin is breathing..how long did it take you to reach the island from PB ?

  34. shivani · April 26, 2010 Reply

    Amazing amzing pics.. pleasure to watch TFS

  35. Meera · April 27, 2010 Reply

    Beautiful pics and an exciting expedition ahead….hope u get such wonderful captures during the expedition too…!!!

  36. Niraj · April 28, 2010 Reply

    hii..I just read your interview in the book “Connect the Dots”, must say really great work, After reading I discovered your blog and I was really impressed by your work.

  37. Manish Singhal · April 30, 2010 Reply

    cool video and superb photos!

  38. vinayak · April 30, 2010 Reply

    Great pictures Kalyan. Coincidentally I saw a programme on the Animal Planet the same day. It was about a dive site off Cocos islands.It mentioned of such behaviour as “Bow Riding”. Dolphins and a few other marine creatures use the wave pressure generated by the bow of the vessel for a free ride. All the jostling and spinning is to get to the best bow wave.

  39. Ramakrishnan A · May 2, 2010 Reply

    Wow!! This is just the beginning I should say and each such trip will be remembered for long! What stunning maneuvering and summersaults!! Phew, never seen one spinning that way before!!

    And the last image, truly mindblowing! Beats all compositions, colors.. Rocking!!

    Many congratulations for living your dream! 🙂


  40. ramya · June 6, 2010 Reply

    it’s been my dream to work with dolphins and whales someday in the wild.

    I’m just going ‘oooooh’:)

  41. Ashutosh Narayan · October 11, 2010 Reply

    amazing video of spinner dolphins. dolphin breathing shot meets clarity. great work Kalyan.

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