On a recent visit to the warm and friendly island of Grand Bahama, I enjoyed a remarkable new experience: swimming with dolphins! Although I am always up for an adventure, I must admit that I wasn’t terribly crazy about the thought of getting that close to a 600 pound marine animal. None the less, I took a deep breath and dove in.
My dolphin experience was with UNEXCO at the Port Lucaya Marina. They offer a Dolphin Close Encounter at their training facility, Swim with Dolphins in a protected lagoon and the Open Ocean Dolphin Experience in an open ocean environment. In all three, visitors interact with friendly Atlantic bottlenose dolphins with a UNEXCO trainer overseeing the contact.
From the UNEXCO marina, I joined a small group of participants for a 20-minute boat ride to the large, open training facility on Sanctuary Bay. The resident dolphins are segregated by family groups, training level or sex into large gated underwater enclosures with floating walkways around the edges. All of the enclosures open onto a huge natural lagoon where the dolphins get to regularly socialize with one another. The UNEXCO dolphins are very well cared for with vitamins, great food and above all, no predators, so they tend to live much longer than open ocean dolphins.
I chose to do the Dolphin Encounter with about 10 other participants. After a UNEXCO trainer gave us instructions on where to stand and how to touch the dolphins, we proceeded to the floating docks and sat with our legs in the water. The trainer called in our dolphin, Recolita, with a whistle. Her two year old calf stayed in the larger lagoon, but she was free to go out to check on him as she wished. Dolphins are incredibly intelligent mammals with strong social tendencies and are thought to communicate with each other with underwater clicks and sounds.
Recolita entertained us with tricks and some very targeted splashing as directed by the trainer’s whistle and hand signals. Travel Maestro tip: You AND your camera will get soaked so be prepared! Next came the very special part. In pairs, we stood on a waist deep platform and Recolita swam right up to us. I was able to pet her cool, firm hide and she even kissed me! After each of us had a chance to personally meet Recolita, she said goodbye with vocal squeals, waves of her pectoral fins and another round of splashes before she exited to the lagoon. There she really let loose with a whole series of leaps, twists and a “moon walk” while balancing high out of the water on her tail.
All I can say is that my dolphin encounter was just magical. It was an unforgettable experience and I’m so very glad I didn’t let my hesitancy keep me from meeting this powerful, yet gentle creature. If you would also like the thrill of a personal encounter with dolphins, let Covington’s vacation advisors make all the arrangements. I can promise it will be an adventure you won’t forget!