30 December 2016

Swimming with Dolphins

Dolphin spotting in the early morning.
Way back when we took our trip to Florida, one of the things I was hoping to do was to swim with dolphins. While there's an aquarium nearby that offers it, it was an-arm-and-a-leg expensive and wasn't quite the experience I was looking for. So, I resigned myself to spotting dolphins from the beach early in the morning waaaaay out in the gulf.
About mid-week, the whole family took a ferry out to Shell Island, where we walked along the beach, picking up shells and trying not to get pinched by the ornery crabs. Then, the ferry took us around, looking for one of the pods of dolphins that hangs around the area without any luck. By far my favorite part was feeding the seagulls that followed the ferry and watching the girls squeal with delight as they snatched treats from their fingers. Not exactly a dolphin sighting but I'm not picky when it comes to animal encounters.
Watching for dolphins.
While I was hanging out on the beach with the kids and Jack was snorkeling, he happened upon a couple who started talking about their recent excursion with some of the local dolphins. Jack got the information and within a matter of hours, he and I had a date. We drove to the dock and boarded a small boat with a couple of other people and the captain. The ride out was quick and reminded me of the many summers I spent in the Ozarks on my grandfather's boat, speeding over the smooth water. It was obvious we'd arrived at our destination when we found about a dozen other boats and jet skis circling a spot on the water--in the middle, a pod of dolphins was playing. The captain gave us instructions and reminded us about the rules of swimming with dolphins--no touching, no feeding, no jumping on top--and once he drove us into position, he gave us the cue to jump in.

After a few tries, here's what we saw:
Though the encounter was brief and a teensy bit intimidating, it was absolutely thrilling. The GoPro didn't pick up my underwater squeal of delight as the dolphins swam under and tilted toward us in curiosity. They were so close that we could have touched them if we tried and their interest in us was incredible like they'd condescended to even glance in our direction. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. We returned to the boat, where the rocking boat promptly made me seasick right over the side of the boat with an audience of a couple dozen people. Oh, well. I swam with dolphins!


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