I wrote this post a while ago, two years in fact, but am bringing it back as my quote of the week, since later this week I will feature the dolphin as my Weekly Creature Feature. Dolphins are amazing! Check back to learn 10 things you may not know about them. (And sorry ahead of time as I don’t have a really lot of dolphin photos so you will see some of these again.)
…For my birthday this year I was in New Zealand, a place as beautiful as all the rumors. My partner and I (now my husband) spent 6 weeks traveling the south island, exploring the lovely places that are everywhere. In my time there, one day before leaving, I got to do something that has been on my “bucket list” for as long as I can remember–SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS!! What an amazing experience! It was even better than I imagined.
We were lucky to get on a trip as the weather and especially, the fierce winds, had cancelled ALL trips out for the previous two days. Even driving down the coast from Picton to Kaikoura, we could see the waves crashing on the beach in a wild fury and wondered if the trip would be possible. It seemed rather unlikely, but I tried to be hopeful, remembering that so far we have been pretty blessed with good luck…maybe a little more was to come our way.
Kaikaura is a coastal town, on the east side of the island and is famous for its beauty and for its variety of wildlife. It is a unique place in the world, with an underwater canyon that comes very close to shore, giving dolphins and other marine animals a great feeding ground year round. Also there is a huge variety of sea birds, including 14 species of albatross –there are only 24 species in the world!
We got up this morning at 4:30–Yikes! though both of us were awake before the alarm, excited about our impending adventure. We arrived at the Dolphin Encounter place, checked in and then, like everyone else, got in the long line to get our wetsuits and other equipment. So many people were there–despite the very early hour.
It was still dark when we got on the boat but the sky was full of stars so we were THRILLED. Kaikoura has a mountain range beyond town and during a very brief 10 minute window the day before, we had noticed that they were covered with snow! We were both hoping for some clear weather and especially, a great sunrise that would throw some light on the mountain.
We were not disappointed! From the boat we watched the ball of fire rise from the sea, about the same time we started seeing dolphins jumping and swimming beside the boat. Also, there were many kinds of albatross soaring by, effortlesslly sailing on the wind. Such big birds with giant 9 foot wingspans–the largest of any bird in the world ! Impressive. It is stunning to see them up close, making me want to fly like that. Imagine!
The sea was a bit rough after the two days of storms, but it was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. The dolphins didn’t seem to mind, jumping and soaring in the sea beside us. Finally after watching them for a while, the crew gave us the go ahead to get our hoods, fins and masks on and we all lined up on the platform at the back of the boat. Sitting there, we watched in awe as one dolphin put on an incredibe show for all of us, jumping out of the water and spinning numerous times SIDEWAYS. It was amazing. Everyone was shouting and ohhing and ahhing and I think the dolphins must know they are pleasing us and they do it for fun. For pure fun! Sitting there, the waves rushed up on us, soaking us and shocking me with the cold temperature. The crew had referred to the water as “very refreshing” when someone asked about it.
The captain blew the whistle and we all slid into the icy water. Wow! What a thrill!
After the immediate shock of the ICE COLD water, I swam off excitedly towards the dolphins. We were all told to sing and make noise to attract their attention and so the bunch of 15 or so of us were in the water, swimming towards the dolphins, who at that point were surrounding us.
The dolphins were dusky dolphins, smaller than bottlenose, grey with a white stripe. Like all dophins they were smart and curious. And they were completely wild. We did not bait them in with food, only got their attention with our terrible singing. Such noise we all made! Humming and singing and talking through our snorkel masks. Surely the dolphins must have wondered where we’d all learned to sing!
In the beginning I just made noise like everyone else, but at some point, I thought I would be better actually trying to sound good; maybe the dolphins would come see who was making the sounds that were different. So I sang actual songs… row, row, row your boat…. or happy birthday to you….or jingle bells, etc. (It was January, but so what?) I tried to sing my best, hoping I could set myself apart from the other swimmers and make the dolphins come to see who was making such a lovely sound ( only in my dreams can I sing well but that never stops me.)
When the first one came over to me I was so excited I wanted to leap with joy! I wanted to leap out of the water and twirl and spin and make a giant splash then do it all over again. The excitement was overpowering. Amazing. A wild dolphin was here to check me out. He moved around me, and I joined him.
Then he and I spun faster and faster and faster, he looking at me and me looking at him as we twirled wildly in the open sea. Around and around and around and around! Him looking at me and me looking at him as I spun with glee. It was incredible. He was close enough for me to reach out and touch him, though I didn’t as we were asked not to. I continued to sing and to talk to him.
More came by and again I sang and twirled with them, a kind of dancing with the dolphins. Such joy! Is this what they feel when they leap from the ocean and twirl in the open air? When they do flips? I wanted to do that, so happy that I was having this amazing experience. I wish I could have read his mind, wondered what he was thinking. I sang and talked to him saying hello and thanking him for letting me visit with him. It was the coolest thing ever! Numerous times I had two or even three around me and all of us were spinning. I would spin with them to the left, get dizzy and then switch directions.; Sometimes they would switch too, sometimes they would wander off to check out someone else.
“The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice. Thunder and lightening and stars and planets, flowers, birds, animals, trees, — all these have voices, and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related. ”
What do you think of this quote? Have you ever had a wild dolphin encounter? What was it like?