Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Swim with the Dolphins

My brother and I climb down the ladder, shivering as we submerge ourselves in the water. The Caribbean water is warm as oceans go, and maybe the shivers are more excitement than chill. In the pool to the south of us, four dolphins leap into the air, twirl above the heads of half a dozen visitors, and dive. The visitors squeal and clap.

The dolphin trainer blows his whistle and waves his hands. “Swim to the middle of the pool,” he says, “turn around, and face me.”

The six of us—Leone and Lyle, Kathleen and Bill, Tom and I—obey his command. Sunlight shimmers on the water. To the left and right all I can see are bright eyes and smiles. The water laps against our life vests. I hold my breath. Behind me I hear a splash. Water sprays down, and I glance up. Arched pink bellies gleam like morning sky.

During the next hour we are kissed by Box (pronounced Bush) and Nuk. We hug them. We dance and sing with the dolphins. We play games. We splash them; Box and Nuk splash back. The dolphins push us across the pool, lifting us until we are airborne and we fly across the water. The dolphins click and squeal; the humans clap and cheer.

These creatures are well cared for and loved by their trainers. The affection between them shows in gentle flicks of water that sprays the dock, in eyes wide open and curious. They swim figure eights through the line of visitors bobbing in the water and patiently allow us to touch their sleek, firm bodies.

Somewhere I read that dolphin females choose when to become fertile. Many dolphins and whales don’t breed in captivity, but at Delfinus, five calves have been born. A record. One that indicates the dolphins are content and at peace with their lives.

Allied with the word’s most successful hunters, they no longer fall prey to fishermen’s nets. They no longer wander through oil slicks or islands of garbage floating in the sea. In exchange for tricks and human touch they receive the 40 to 60 pounds of fish they need to consume each day. They seek out human company as well as that of their own kind. They are affectionate and playful.

The scars that mark Nuk’s back and dorsal fin are a testament to their power. One-on-one, in the water that is their home, they have the advantage. They choose not to use it against us, even though—based on their brain to body size ratio, they may be intelligent to understand the harm we wreak in the oceans of the world. I wonder if they have sacrificed their freedom to teach us to love what we do not understand.


Tim said...

That's awesome - you lucky ducks, excellent post & photos!

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Diane said...

I am enthralled with the joy on the faces of the humans and the dolphins in your photos! What an incredible privilege to have such interaction. (And I thought it was cool when we got the squirrels in our neighborhood to know us well enough to take animal crackers out of our fingers!) :-)