Ages ago, my family took a summer vacation to the Caribbean. We enjoyed a week of sun, sand, and the absolutely gorgeous water that’s kept me (and now Zeke) returning to the area as often as possible. On the same trip, my sister and I asked my parents if we could try swimming with dolphins. They agreed, and we were in for an experience I’ll never forget.
My sister and I signed up for the dolphin encounter at the Blue Lagoon Island dolphin sanctuary on Nassau. We hopped in the water as part of a group of about 10 people. The two dolphins were full of personality, swimming up to people in the group and interacting with us even without being prompted by the friendly trainers. The dolphins seemed genuinely thrilled to play with us; one even swam right up to me and splashed water in my face (unprompted).
In turn, each person in the group got to touch, kiss and play with these playful, intelligent creatures. After we were well acquainted, we each got to experience the foot push. I swam out into the middle of the lagoon and floated on my stomach. The dolphins swam up behind me and each put a nose on one of my feet, pushing me through (and up out of) the water with incredible power and speed.
As you might have gathered by now, I loved every moment.
This trip was long before I met Zeke, but I’ve always thought he’d love the experience. This year, on our anniversary trip to the British Virgin Islands, we took a day trip to Tortola and visited Dolphin Discovery. It was just as excellent as I had hoped!
We were fortunate to visit the center on a very slow day. We had four young dolphins and four trainers working (and playing) with just the two of us! The dolphins, Romeo, Juliet, Angela and Watson, were still learning their cues and behaviors, which only made the experience more fun in my book.
Romeo, in particular, was eager to perform. It took the two of us a few tries to get the belly ride just right. For that trick, I swam out into the water and put one arm out by my side. Romeo swam up behind me, upside-down, I grabbed on to his fins as he swam by, and he towed me — belly-to-belly — back to the edge of the natural pool. He was so excited to show off this skill that he’d often swim up behind me without being signaled to do it (I heard “where’s Romeo?” a good bit during our swim!). Since these dolphins are being trained using positive reinforcement, I was asked to resist the urge to hop on and take the ride unless the trainer had given the signal.
We touched, kissed, danced with and received belly rides from each of the dolphins. For young Angela, it was her first interaction with humans who weren’t trainers. She was fantastic, and seemed to have almost as much fun as we had.
Once we had played with all of the young dolphins, we moved to another enclosure where two adult dolphins — Hippo and Ayala — showed us a good time. Zeke and I each got to grab on to a boogie board and be pushed through the water (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) by these much stronger dolphins. We also got to try to belly ride on their much larger bellies.
I had an amazing day, but sharing it with Zeke made it even more delightful. I caught myself standing back, watching him interact with our new friends, and couldn’t help but smile. We had made this adventure an anniversary gift to each other, and it was a hit for both of us.