Dolphins & Swimming & Sunburns
I have been looking forward to swimming with dolpins since well before I made it to Australia's over-heated shores. Every weekend I've planned on doing it, and then every weekend something else has come up. But this weekend was finally the day: I woke up way too early after way too little sleep, and headed out to catch the bus to Rockingham and swim with real live wild dolphins!
The trip out was great - the group I went with (Rockingham Dolphins) does a great intro to the whole thing on the bus ride out. They talked quite up front about how hard it can be to actually see dolphins in the wild - it's not as though they keep an updated calendar about where they'll be, and trips have taken as long as 5 1/2 hour before anyone saw any dolphins in the water. Nothing at all can be guaranteed.
They also gave great little facts about dolphins - apparently baby dolphins don't realise they have blow holes right away, and for a while keep surfacing to breath with their mouth (awww... so cute!). Also, apparently when mating (and they have no mating season - dolphins are always up for it), they take on a pinkish hue. I have no idea how obvious this pinkish hue is, but hey - I like the image of happy excited little dolphins playing in shades of pink. I'm strange that way.
Once we got out to Rockingham, we all started to congragate on the boat and get into our uber-sexy wet suits. "Swimming" with dolphins is really snorkling with dolphins, which really makes a lot more sense. As much as the image in my head of little dolphins happily frolicking and playing amongst the people, rubbing up against them and playing little games of tag appeals, the truth of the matter is that dolphins "are wild animals and as such behave in unpredicatable ways". (They had that sign up at AUC regarding the swans. It always makes me giggle.) Basically, dolphins will bite you if they don't like you.
So, we suited up, and proceeded to drive around the bay at Rockingham, looking for dolphins. It took a while (no where near five hours, though!), but I can definitely think of worse ways of spending my morning than sitting on a boat watching the water and the waves, looking for dolphins while seeing all sorts of birds I'm unfamiliar with.
But eventually we found dolphins! I was so excited (and I have a video clip of me jumping up and down about the whole thing), but a bit scared. The people running the tour suggested I come right up front and hold on to one of them while we snorkled around, in case something went wrong. Which was a really really good idea.
Because... guess who found out she panics when snorkling?
I've been in the water before, I've been in the ocean before, but I completely freaked out at the idea of snorkling and putting my head in the water and trying to breathe at all. I started frantically trying to keep myself afloat (not difficult, being that the suits keep you floating) and crying and sobbing and begging them to please please please get me out of the water please I am going to drown and die and there will be badness and god I don't want to die in the middle of the ocean please get me out of there now please.
They very quickly and calmly and politely got me out of the water and back onto the boat, where I proceeded to huddle in a corner and hyperventilate for a while, sobbing and crying and generally freaking out for at least two or three minutes.
A very nice woman who has been on the tour three times now (Hi Wendy!) sat with me for a few minutes and got me to breathe and got me some water. Then, she kindly held onto my glasses as I got myself back into the snorkle gear and went back into the water.
Scariest thing I've ever done. I was convinced I'd go back in and panic again and be so embarassed for the rest of my life that I had done that. I was so scared, and yet... went back in.
I'd love to say that the next time everything went fine, but it took me at least three or four times in the water before I could just relax and float and breathe through the snorkle. For the first few times I kept pulling me head out of the water and breathing that way. But eventually I relaxed.
Being in the water like that, even being unable to see very far... it's amazing. It's like there's nothing anymore except the water. It's like... like... I don't know. It's as close to being in paradise as I think I ever want to be. Nothing else seemed to matter except the water and the coolness and the way sounds pass. It's like floating forever, and time just seemed to stop for me once I could relax and enjoy it.
Because of how bad my vision is, I know I saw less dolphins than the other people did, but I did get to see quite a few out there. I remember seeing these two dolphins swimming side by side through the water, doing something that looked so graceful and acrobatic. They seemed so close... I wanted to reach out and touch them, I wanted to follow them. Watching dolphins swim underneath you is so... well, it's amazing. I'm sorry I lack the words for it. It was everything I wanted it to be. This was such an experience, and if you get the chance to do it, I recommend you do.
I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted, even with my sexy new camera, because I was soaking wet a lot of the time and didn't want to touch it. As well, as per my usual reaction to being on a boat, I felt sea sick a lot. (I didn't actually throw up, and yay on that.) I didn't really want to move much. But I did get a few photos of the tour itself, and some lovely pics of the beach out at Rockingham. There is, sadly, only one photo of a dolphin. But really - photos wouldn't have done it justice anyway.
Some time in the next few months I'll head out again and go actual SCUBA diving. I can't wait.