By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

OCEANS boil with hundreds of graceful dolphins as they combine families to form rare superpods

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Videographer / director: Patrick Dykstra
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ruby Coote
Editor: James Thorne

Dolphins usually live in pods of between two and 40

As social creatures, dolphins live in pods and family groups - which usually contain between two and 40 members - but sometimes they will form larger pods with hundreds or even thousands of dolphins.

Wildlife videographer Patrick Dykstra was lucky enough to track down these superpods while sailing in California and then again in Sri Lanka.

Sometimes dolphins will form superpods of hundreds or thousands of dolphins when there is a surplus of food

He said: “We always let the dolphins come to us, we do not chase them.

“They are curious by nature and if you hang around in the area where they are, some of them will inevitably come and check you out and want to play with the boat and the pressure wave it creates.

Superpods are also formed for extra protection against larger predators

“If a group does not show interest or does not want to play, there is no point in trying!”

The size of superpods vary depending on species, habitat and social structure and will often form when there is an abundance of food or for protection against larger animals.

The smallest species of dolphin is Maiu's dolphin and the largest is the killer whale

Dykstra added: “The superpod we saw in Sri Lanka was made up of spinner dolphins and likely formed to hunt together and socialise.

“Or perhaps as protection from predators, as killer whales frequent the area where we saw them and large pods tend to provide more protection for the dolphins.”

Dolphins are carnivores and eat mostly fish and squid

Superpods are a rare sight, however, and the swarming dolphins do not always stick around to give spectators a full show. Sometimes Patrick was able to track them for a full day, while at others they only kept track of them for a couple of minutes.

The Dubai-based photographer said: “Seeing so many dolphins happily surrounding us playing, jumping and enjoying life was just surreal.

The graceful mammals use echolocation to track each other

“It makes you really appreciate being alive. It was definitely one of those moments in life that takes your breath away.

“I’ve spent thousands of hours at sea, but I’ve only witnessed a few true superpods, where the ocean literally boils with so many fins, blowholes and tails breaking the surface all around you.

Dolphin calfs will stay with their mothers for between two and eight years

“It’s a life experience that you never forget, that’s for sure!”

Patrick Dykstra spotted these two superpods in California and Dominica

Despite being an experienced drone operator, capturing the stunning views required patience and a steady hand.

The photographer used a drone camera and a GoPro to capture the breathtaking view

He said: “Operating the drone from a small, moving boat is a real challenge. If it is windy, as it often is out at sea, the challenge increases.

The excitable dolphins were hard to track and sometimes only stayed visible for a matter of minutes

“However, the scary part is always the landing much more than flying. You are rocking, the boat is moving with the current, the drone is is drifting with the wind, the battery is low - it can be a little precarious!"