Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fulfilling a Life Goal

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to swim with a dolphin. I think the idea first got into my head while watching old "Flipper" re-runs as a kid. I find them to be incredible creatures: the perfect balance of power and gentleness.

Back in 2003, we tried to swim with wild dolphins while in New Zealand, but the cruddy weather kept the dolphins out of sight, much to my great disappointment. While searching for them, we did swim/dive with other memorable creatures (manta ray, seals, a whale), but the lack of dolphins was a bummer for me.

Flash forward to our recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. As we prepped for our vacation, I saw a reference to the fact that you can swim with captive dolphins in Cabo. OMG! I about burst with excitement right then and there. I knew this was something that I HAD to do while on our trip.

The morning of my dolphin swim, I woke up insanely early ... I was like a kid on Christmas morning. All through the night, I woke up to look at the clock to make sure I didn't oversleep. When it came time to head out on my adventure, fatigue wasn't anything on my radar. Instead, I was buzzing as if I'd had a few straight shots of espresso.

When I arrived at the dolphin center, I was given a wrist band which identified which dolphin experience I registered for, changed into my swim suit, and then hung out in the designated waiting area with the rest of my color group until the trainer (Mariu) arrived. After a brief poolside overview session, we jumped into the pool and had some time to get to know our dolphin—Aqua. As we floated in our lifejackets, Aqua swam in and out of our line, giving us the opportunity to pet her and let her get to know us a bit. I was struck by how soft her skin was; Mariu told us that dolphins shed their skin 12 times per day ... who knew?!?!?

We had a few photo ops, watching a few skills/tricks, and listening to Aqua sing under watery, we got to choose two of three rides with Aqua. The three ride options were a belly ride (slow), a dorsal fin ride (fast and splashy), and a dive to the bottom of the pool. I chose the dorsal ride and the dive... DUH!

The dorsal fin ride was a hoot. It reminded me of riding a skittish horse because of Aqua's swimming motions. Not only was it incredibly exciting, it was also a great core workout; I had to lift myself up to avoid getting an insane amount of water splashing up into my face.

For the dive, I ditched my lifejacket and donned a mask; even though I had the ability to see underwater, I don't recall seeing much. I was so caught up in the "Holy moly! I'm swimming with a dolphin" realization that my other senses didn't connect with my memory bank... not to mention, the dive only lasted 10-15 seconds. That said, I do remember the water being kind of gray at depth and I also distinctly recall the feeling of Aqua swimming and the power she possessed.

Best hour I could have ever hoped for! Even a week later, I can still hardly believe one of my life's bucket list items is checked off and was such an incredible experience.

Smootches from Aqua

Yup! I kissed a dolphin!
Dorsal fin ride

Big breath before the dive

Going down

And we're back
Aqua and me ... BFFs
I'm pretty sure I had that smile on my face from the second I saw her!