When the BBC conducted a poll for its TV programme 50 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE “Swimming with dolphins” came way ahead of the rest of the field.
Some people find this surprising. I don’t, because at International Dolphin Watch we receive innumerable letters expressing the profound, often life changing experiences that have occurred after human/dolphin encounters. They come from people of all ages with different backgrounds and from all walks of life. For some the magic of meeting a dolphin is immediate. For others the full significance of it comes much later.
This guide has been compiled to help you fulfil your dream. However it is very important to remember that all the opportunities described in this booklet are to see dolphins who are completely free to go where they wish in the open sea. A close encounter can never be guaranteed. Also bear in mind that in some places there are distinct seasonal variations in dolphin movements and populations. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s imperative before you book a trip to find out what the local regulations are concerning watching and especially swimming with dolphins. In some places strict restrictions are imposed, in others dolphinswims are banned altogether.
IDW produces a CODE OF CONDUCT which we ask all dolphin watchers to observe. It is based on common sense and a respect and understanding of dolphins. Its aim is to make dolphin watching a WIN WIN scenario, in which you, the watcher, will experience the uplift of spirit that dolphins bring into human lives. In return you should give something back to the dolphins by doing your utmost to ensure that their homes, the open seas, are kept healthy and abundant with fish.
A beautiful video was made of a dolphinswims trip I joined in the Bahamas. There was great excitement when the dolphins were first spotted. Some on the boat were moved to tears at just a brief sighting. When the dolphins arrived they jostled around the boat like children in a playground. In the water they raced amongst the swimmers obviously enjoying a new game. Then, as quickly as they came, the dolphins departed.
Part of the magic of that whole dolphin experience was that we all felt privileged when the dolphins chose to share their time and joy with us. However there was no doubt who was in control. The dolphins were. Indeed one of the lessons we all had to learn was letting go. When we did this the memories of our moments spent with the dolphins became even more precious. The poems we wrote when we got back to shore revealed how the dolphins had reached into our souls.
The wide diversity of the poems confirmed something I have known for a long time. Namely that dolphin encounters have a different emotional and spiritual significance for different people. Our dolphin experiences did however, all have one item in common. They made each and everyone of us feel very special.
One outcome of that trip was that International Dolphin Watch and Abbotsford Publishing joined forces to produce a unique package. Sunshine on the Water is a combination of a video and book of poetry illustrated with photographs. The video certainly captures the thrill of arriving by seaplane in the Bahamas, and the excitement of spotting the dolphins. The highlight of the video, of course, is the entrancing footage shot as the cameraman weaves amongst the humans and dolphins twirling joyfully together underwater. The poems speak for themselves.
I thank Melanie on behalf of dolphin lovers everywhere for compiling this list of dolphin watching opportunities. Whichever one you chose I hope you will share your experience with others when you return. The world can do with as much dolphin joy as we can spread around.
Dr Horace Dobbs
Honorary Director International Dolphin Watch
* Sunshine on the Water is available from the IDW Dolphin Shop