Swimming with the Dolphins in Hawaii - Photos courtesy Sunlight on Water Tours
Fear and excitement battle it out in my stomach as I arise early to the slow lightening of a day that would transform my world. Gazing out to sea above the crashing surf below, I wonder about the captivating creatures I hope to encounter today. At sunrise, we arrive at the marina in Kona to board our dive boat, where the captain and crew greet us warmly. We begin to prepare ourselves and our snorkle gear, for on this sparkling Hawaiian morning, we journey out to sea in search of wild Dolphins.
Our Captain, China, and his crew express a deep reverence and respect for the Dolphin world and their environment. China blows his horn to the four directions. His deep, rich voice speaks a traditional Hawaiian prayer in honour of the earth, the sea and all her inhabitants. This simple ceremony adds to the calm purpose I feel, as I begin what is for me, an exciting, though possibly daunting visit to an alien world.
Dolphins spend the night feeding, miles out at sea. In the morning, they swim in to more shallow bays to rest, socialize and play. They are conscious breathers, so must always move and can never sleep. Instead, they have the ability to shut down half their brain at a time and then switch. A resting Dolphin can be spotted swimming slowly with one eye closed. The Spinner Dolphins we seek are about human size and live a similar life span to us. They are known for their playful leap out of the water, spinning and splashing down. Today, as we glide across the sunlit water, all eyes search the gently rolling waves.
Suddenly, the boat slows. “This is going to be an epic day.” shouts China. We are in the path of a school of Manta Rays. “Everyone in the water!” Gulp. I knew I would be getting into deep water, just not this minute. What! You mean now? After a bit of coaxing, I agree to swim with crew member, Dusty.
Quivering with fear, but determined, I cling to the back of his wetsuit as we enter the deep, blue sea. Arms around each other, I focus on slowing my breath. We watch a few of these magnificent creatures pass by at a distance. Then, straight in front and heading our direction is an enormous, twelve foot wide, “butterfly of the sea”. Mouth gaping open to feed, and with gracefully fluid wings, he changes course and swims just below us a few feet, and up again behind. In that tingling moment, I realize that fear has vanished, and my world just became sharper, brighter and more vivid.
With smiles like cheshire cats, we continue heading across the bay. China and the crew remind us of the protocol we must follow as visitors to their world. We are asked to swim with our hands close to our body and never touch a Dolphin or any sea life. We do not want to scare them, nor pass on any potentially harmful germs.
Shortly, a pod is spotted and we stop ahead of them in the direction they are swimming. Baby shampoo in the mask for everyone as a defog agent, and we act upon that irresistible urge to get in the water with wild Dolphins. We enter in a shallow bay about fifty feet deep. The water is so clear, it looks as though I could reach down and touch the bottom.
Breathing calmly now, flippers gently propelling, I swim slowly into the vast blue expanse. I hear them coming! Their chirps, squeaks and whistles get closer and they are here! The whole pod of about 200 family and friends, all on their way somewhere, have decided to swim with us. My delight is boundless. Giggles gurgle out of me as I learn to laugh with a snorkle. Enveloped in this warm, blue world, I chuckle and swim along with them. After awhile, the pod passes, and we are called back to the boat. I think our swim is finished, and I am content. But the best is yet to come.
We enjoy an escort of bow surfing Dolphins as we continue on our way. They leap into the air beside us like shiny toys. Soon we arrive at the place they will rest for the day, and we gently enter the water off the dive platform and this time the water is deep. Very deep. And very blue.
Hands behind back, breath slow and comfortable, I glide off in a direction of my own, and wait. The early morning sunlight turns the water a shimmering, irridescent turquoise. I am shrouded in shafts of dazzling light, which pierce deeply into the abyss, like portals from heaven. My body, mind and soul hover effortlessly, embraced by a salty, silken tranquility.
Dolphin speech echos cats, chickens, crows and sweet song birds. It mimics tree frogs, squeak toys and rambling, rude raspberries. Sounds that announce they have come to play. Babies hang on to their mothers fin for a tow ride. Others swim in graceful tandem, choreographed to perfection. Some leap and spin right in front of me, then splash down like bullets, disappearing into the deep. Others swim close and look me in the eye. They want to make sure I am watching before they perform their next trick. Many are close enough to touch, but I keep my hands crossed over my heart and savour the joy of being in their company.
Utterly fascinated, I watch them frolic in their delight, a sense of humour evident as one swims by completely upside down. These alluring creatures are jubilant with life. My mermaid nature is seduced into sharing their glee. I have no choice but to be charmed, as I eavesdrop on their antics and amusing, verbal expressions. I thought I knew happiness, until I met joy.
Having lost all sense of time, I continue to drift in serenity, when another pod appears, surrounding me. I don’t know where we are going, so I just follow along. Those on the boat observe a sea of Dolphin fins with one odd looking one in the center. Me. Just one of the pod.
Feeling dreamily tired, I reluctantly return to the boat. Hanging spellbound and quivering on the edge of the platform, I am tempted out by a warm water shower. Legs like jelly, with a far away look in my eye, they declare me in Dolphin bliss, where I contentedly remain.
Back at home, gratitude motivates me as I savour the memory of my personal connection to these divine creatures. The colour and texture of a sun polished sea helps anchor a sense of calm and peace throughout my busy days. Joy, bliss, wonder and delight remain as daily gifts. Each is wrapped in a rich, deep, delicious blue. ~
Marcella Andrews is a naturalist at heart with a tremendous love of the outdoors. She respectfully asks that you consider not supporting captive Dolphin shows. These animals have been kidnapped from their wild families and forced to learn tricks for dead fish. Dolphins in the wild generally swim two hundred miles a day and hunt their food live. Their pods stay together for a lifetime.