I got to swim with dolphins this morning!
I didn't sleep well last night. This isn't much of a surprise. It
was the first night in an unfamiliar bed in a very unfamiliar setting.
willowisp got me up once to come out on the balcony and
look out at the view -- very pretty.
This morning I got up somewhat too early and went out with the first
handful of people to leave the ship after we docked in Freeport. We
took a bus to someplace far more colorful than the port and checked in
at UNEXSO for the excursion.
There were five of us on this one: willowisp and me, a
younger couple, and an older lady who proclaimed loudly that she'd
been waiting fifty years for this. She asked several times -- no,
scratch that. She didn't ask. She insisted that she wanted a picture
of just her with a dolphin jumping over her head.
"Good luck with that," one of the staff told her.
Anyway. We checked out pairs of swim fins and boarded a small boat.
That took us a couple miles around the island to the dolphins' home.
There we met Veronica, their trainer, and headed back out until we
were a fair distance from shore. Veronica came alongside us in
another boat along with her two charges. I'm terrible at judging
distance underwater but I think it was somewhere between 10 and 20
The dolphins, whose names were Stripe and Bimini, were as friendly as
I could imgine. We all piled into the water and put some distance
between one another so that the dolphins could come up and say hello.
Their skin felt... you know, it's hard to describe. It was smoother
than human skin, much smoother than leather. Slippery and sleek but
not slick. Imagine wet glass and you'll get pretty close to the
We swam around with them for a little while before Veronica had us
stretch out in a long line. One at a time she had us call Stripe and
Bimini over (tap your hand flat on the surface of the water) and give
them signals for one behavior or another. She didn't tell us in
advance what the signals were for -- just taught them to us and told
us to pick one when the time came. It was a whole lot of fun.
My very favorite part came next. We all spread out in a line again.
We had to rearrange ourselves and put distance between us fairly
frequently -- there was a strong current that kept bunching us up and
herding us over toward the boat. Anyway, one by one we stretched our
arms out to the side and invited the dolphins over. They sidled up
alongside us and we held onto the base of their dorsal fins while they
towed us over to Veronica's boat. ("Hi, Mom! We brought you another
human. Can we have our fish now?") Even though it lasted about
fifteen seconds it was completely amazing. It showed me how totally
at home dolphins are in the water and reinforced how clumsy I feel --
and I'm perfectly comfortable swimming! Then we each got a dolphin
After we had been properly smooched it was time to climb back into the
boat. Stripe and Bimini got a few minutes to show off. Those jumps
and tail-stands must have been the easiest things in the world for
them to do -- at least it looked that way. I'm not much of a judge of
dolphin expression but they looked like they were having fun.
Like a typical newbie, I left all my money (including credit) back on
board the ship, so I'm going to have to write back to the people who
ran the tour and order a CD with all the pictures they took. There
are actually some good ones of willowisp and of me in
The loud, slightly rude lady with the jumping obsession clearly had
the time of her life. She was absolutely delighted from the first
moment she saw Stripe and Bimini. The first time one of them came
over to her and said hello she was grinning from ear to ear. I don't
know if I'll see her again on this cruise but I sure hope the swim was
everything she had hoped it would be. She didn't get the exact
picture she wanted but to hear her talk afterward she didn't really
We took the bus back to the ship and went straight to the stateroom to
wash off the salt that had dried on our skin. After that we had some
lunch. Now we're back for a midafternoon nap -- willowisp
is sacked out as I write this -- and then later there's a formal
dinner. We may go for a quiet evening, maybe watch a movie or
something. Tomorrow morning we get to go snorkeling with stingrays.
I'm sitting out on the balcony writing this. The palm trees are
bright green, the sand is white, and the ocean is a deep, rich blue.
I hope I remember the colors when I go home.
I'm having a great time.