Swimming with dolphins

Trip Start Apr 16, 2008
Trip End Apr 23, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This morning we had to be up very early to be at the Waianae Boat Harbour in Waianae, a community on the north west side of the island, by 8am so we could go swimming with dolphins! I had booked a "dolphin excursion" with a company (aptly named) Dolphin Excursions, after reading a lot of reviews about how fantastic an experience this was, and, also, to make one of Ben's dreams come true - to swim with dolphins! I thought it would be much better for him to do it out in the open ocean in their natural habitat with them, where anything could happen, rather than in a controlled environment like at the Ocean World park I had had dolphin encounters at this January. Plus, this tour also offered the chance to swim with sea turtles and to go snorkelling. Viewing humpback whales is also a usual part of the tour, except we missed out humpback whale season by only a week, as it officially ends on April 15th, after which time the humpbacks are on their way back to Alaska.

It was about an hour's drive from our hotel to drive to the bay at Waianae. The weather was looking good - again, cloudy in the morning but looking like it was going to clear up and be another hot, sunny day, which it was! Ben and I slathered on the sunscreen really well when we got there, as we didn't want to get burned anymore and we could already start feeling the rays bear down. This time I made sure that I brought Ben's cowboy sun hat for him because he has kept forgetting to bring it with him this week and as a result keeps getting sun stroked (or it is sun stricken?). But silly me, it was only after we got into the boat that I realized that I hadn't brought MY hat with me - it was back at the hotel!!

The boat we got onto was an inflatable vessel that seated about 16-20 people. Ben and I got two of the seats right at the front. There was a driver, our guide, and then Chuck the photographer, who was there to capture our experiences on his digital camera to sell to us later on. We pulled out of the marina, and were only on our way out for about a minute, still well in the harbour, when we started to see dolphins in the water right away! Fantastic - they were everywhere, just swimming around us! The dolphins were Spinner Dolphins, named so because they like to "spin" around in the air, just for fun and at their own will. I took lots of photos, but am not sure yet how well they turned out. They spun and jumped so fast for my slow shuttered camera that I kept missing catching them in the air, but most likely still got some good photos, which I will check later. There was already another tour boat on the other side of the harbour, and they already had people in the water, snorkelling and swimming among the dolphins. After viewing the dolphins for about 5 minutes (and me personally being in total awe at the sights), we were told to jump in and swim with them. Easier said than done! When it was my turn to go, I had some uneasy hesitation: 1) because I have a fear of swimming in the open ocean where creatures like sharks or octopi can come at you, 2) because I was a bit nervous about swimming among the dolphins, and 3) because I'm scared to jump into the ocean, where it's cold and I'm all exposed to the above. But I had to do it in order to have this amazing experience, so I just did it, plummeting into the clear blue sea with my fins, snorkel and mask on.

After getting used to the initial cold of the water, the rest was great. We were all wearing lifejackets here, so no chance of drowning, and it actually wasn't scary to be swimming in the deep ocean because it wasn't that deep, and you could see exactly how deep it was because you could see the bottom of the ocean, since the water was so clear! It was maybe about 40 feet down, and the bottom was all sandy, with not much down there but sand. Once we were in, it was not as easy as I thought it would be to suddenly just start swimming with the dolphins in their natural habitat. We were told that the dolphins were kind of temperamental about if they wanted to swim with the humans, who they saw in the bay every single day. Sometimes they were playful and in the mood for a lot of interaction, and sometimes they weren't. Today it seemed like they weren't really in the mood for coming to explore us and mingle, so it was up to us to find them and then swim over to where we could get close, but that proved to be a challenge. Also, it is illegal for humans to touch sea mammals, or to be less than 10 feet away from them, but I wasn't sure how that was going to work if we were swimming in the same area as them and they were just there right next to us.

I tried to stay close to Ben so that we could see the dolphins together. By this time, the always sceptical Ben who didn't think that we would actually see any dolphins at all, much less be swimming in the ocean among them, was becoming a believer after all, and that even was reinforced further when a dolphin swam right up to him, circled him four times, and then jumped in the air three times in a row right in front of him! I was right behind him watching this and it was amazing! Ben thought it was amazing too and he said that the dolphin was only 1 foot away from him when he came up to him and swam circles around him (I didn't get to see that part). So even that experience alone made the whole trip worth it, I think.

Again, it was an effort to get close to the dolphins, but I did get to see them swimming ahead of me, and then even swimming underwater, which was really, really cool, because you always see them swimming on top of the water and I had never ever seen dolphins swimming under the water, especially with my head under the water as well! I was able to get some very distinct photos of them underwater as well with my disposable underwater camera.

After a half hour in the water with the dolphins, we were beckoned to go back on the boat, where we were whisked away further out in the water and up the coast to where there was a reef and a good snorkelling spot. When we were ready to anchor down, we spotted a big sea turtle swimming on the surface just in front of us! Wow! I hadn't realized that the sea turtles here were going to be so big! Everyone got into the water again, to snorkel, and I took my time and went in almost last, with Ben still in the boat behind me. When I jumped in there were many brilliant yellow butterfly fish below me. Ben threw in part of a muffin to feed them and they all came rushing around me and beneath me. They were everywhere! It was kind of freaky, since I was looking underwater at them all, all surrounding me but yet not touching me, though they could have.

The water in this area was again about 40 feet down, but this time with a rocky (reef) bottom. Totally crystal clear again, which is definitely not something that I am used to back home in Canada with our cold, dark, murky waters there. There were lots of fish everywhere - lots of the yellow fish, plus black fish with stripes, and black and white striped fish. I didn't see any more sea turtles, unfortunately, although I was looking for them. After about another half hour of snorkelling, we were reeled into the boat again and so ended our ocean excursion in the beautiful, sea-creature populated waters of Hawaii - quite an experience to be had!
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