Swimming With Wild Dolphins
Swimming With Wild Dolphins Reviews
swimming with wild dolphins Oct 19, 2008
A few years ago I had a hankering to go swim with dolphins. I didn’t want to go to some circus style experience and swim with captured dolphins, I wanted them wild, in their environment and on their terms. So I booked a trip through an eco-friendly tourism company, Discover the World – although there are many other companies that do these trips too – and off I went to The Bahamas.
I flew into Miami, took a taxi to Dania (just next door to Fort Lauderdale) and arrived at the Royal Palm Yacht Basin where I met fellow passengers and the lovely couple that captained our vessel, the Jennifer Marie (sadly out of the business now). We stayed overnight in the marina and had our orientation talk and a few drinks before our first night below deck.
The next morning we set sail for Grand Bahama, a trip that took all day and allowed us to get the feel of the boat (a 70ft schooner) and to get our sea legs. On the trip over we all looked for dolphins but didn’t see any. Once we arrived at Grand Bahama we took a stroll on the beach and got to know each other. Another overnight in the marina, the next morning was the start of our adventure. We sailed about 4 hours out stopping along the way at a wreck for some snorkelling. There was an abundance of fish to be seen: barracuda, parrot fish, giant pufferfish, nurse sharks, sergeant majors, varieties of snapper, trigger fish, eagle rays, southern sting rays and moon jellyfish. The wreck was in about 30ft of water so it was easy for some of us to explore. The currents were fairly strong though, so quite tiring.
Then it was back on the boat for some yummy lunch and a sail out to White Sand Ridge which was to be our home for a few days. Weather permitting the boat anchors out there, 40 miles from land, and the blueist of Caribbean water you can imagine. Now the hope is that dolphins – bottlenose dolphins and the more inquisitive Atantic Spotted Dolphins swim by the boat, the excited passengers get in the water with snorkel gear and if the dolphins want to hang about a wonderful encounter takes place. If the dolphins are just passing through then they will swim off and the passengers will be disappointed but elated at the same time. An encounter is anything from 5 minutes to a couple of hours. On such an encounter one will be able to observe the animals’ behaviour, swim alongside them and play by ducking under and summersaulting etc to keep the dolphins interested. The size of the dolphin group can be anything from 2 to 20+ . The more dolphins there are the better the quality of the encounter as they do not feel outnumbered by the 8-10 humans in the water.
Don’t expect to be cuddling them. This is not in a controlled environment with trained dolphins. They are totally wild. Having said that I did ‘bond’ with a dolphin the following year ( I made this trip every year over 5 years, sometimes twice in a year – yep you get addicted!!) On this occasion our encouter lasted 43 minutes. It was very active, lots of diving and summersaulting and I had just taken a wee rest on the surface to catch my breath when I noticed a dolphin floating beside me. I looked at it, he (i noticed his gender later) looked at me, god, when a dolphin looks you in the eye it goes right through you, and then ever so slowly I started to stroke him down his flank, and then within a minute he was underneath me belly up and I was petting him like a dog! I was blubbering through my snorkel , it was very emotional. This went on for 7 minutes and the captain and his wife were amazed – they had never seen this happen in the 8 years they’d been running these trips! It’s an experience that will stay with me for life.
Another amazing experience for me was sleeping out on deck at night. I’d be awake most of it watching shooting stars and electrical storms out in the distance. We were inside the Bermuda Triangle after all.
We also saw water spouts (like tornadoes at sea) and on a couple of occasions we saw sharks that you wouldn’t want to be in the water with (bull and tiger).
This sort of trip is about what you make of it. The weather can be changeable so you have to be prepared to spend time away from the ridge and the dolphins if it’s stormy. There are a few little islands to shelter at and one can snorkel and explore there. Also you have to be able to mix with all types of people, you’re on a small boat and you can’t get off! It’s very basic living, there is not enough fresh water for luxury showers – a sea bath and 10 seconds of showering is enough. We did have fab food though, Terry the captain’s wife (and a captain too) cooked everything from fresh. How she did it in such a small galley I will never know. On a couple of nights Claude the captain would make copious amounts of margueritas and Bahama Mama’s that were absolutely lethal!
It’s a shame they don’t run the trips anymore but there are other companies that do and as long as you go with a reputable one you will have the same fantastic experience.
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