Dolphins seem to have as much interest in people as we do in them. From ancient times, these sleek mammals have been revered. Poseidon rode a dolphin propelled chariot; Aphrodite and Apollo considered them sacred; Hindu's call Ganga, the Ganges River Dolphin, a deity.
My husband and I refer to a favorite snapshot of my youngest daughter as the one with the dolphin smile. Laura's eyes sparkle, her mouth is open, almost laughing, yet she is too young to have developed that behavior. Every inch of her tiny being radiates bliss. And to me, a bottlenose dolphin's face brings the same delight and happiness.
I snapped this picture of a trainer and her slippery student during unrehearsed practice. The two-some paused for an intimate minute, a bond of love, a near embrace. I, too, know that feeling, an emotional connection between animal and human; I share it with my dog. We snuggle together on my bed; it's sheer contentment, lost in the moment.
So, it was with great excitement that I celebrated New Year's Day by taking two of my grandchildren and their parents to Sea World Orlando. I wanted to share my love of aquatic life with them and subconsciously inject an appreciation of nature.
We enrolled in the Dolphin Spotlight Tour for an up-close encounter with the playful sea creatures. The session began with our guide teaching us about positive reinforcement training. Then, we watched the method in action as trainers worked with the animals between shows. (That was when I snapped my photo.)
Next we visited the hospital area. Sea World vets are called out to rescue animals, especially Florida manatees. They nurse back to health and hopefully release them into the wild. However, the dolphins and whales performing in the park were born on site.
Finally the time came for small group hands-on participation. Kelly, a dolphin-care expert, assisted my son, daughter-in-law, two grandchildren and me. She used a special whistle to call Hekili, a male, and his girlfriend, Griffin, poolside. She talked to them and, they talked back, a clicking throaty sound.
The dolphins radiated joy just like Laura's snapshot. They seemed to wiggle with glee, like a dog wagging his tail, panting and begging you to throw the ball. They acted like they couldn't wait to perform. We were able to touch them (they felt like rubber) and examine their bodies. The grandkids were totally involved, except, they didn't like feeding them fish, claiming it felt and smelled yucky.
We learned hand signals and gave them a try. Kyra, who is only four, got a bit frightened when Griffin jumped straight up to touch her Dad's outstretched palm. Kelly gently instructed him to lower his arm.
We hated to leave, our time gone so quickly. I felt envious of the staff's long-term relationship with their special friends. Our connection was fleeting, but priceless. We left realizing we just lived a Kodak moment.
Check out www.SeaWorld.com.
Look under the heading Exclusive Experiences- Educational Guided Tours.