Dec 11th, 2001, 08:58 AM
Posts: n/a
I don't want to get into the middle of an animal rights/right to enjoy debate.
We visited Cuba this past year, and our trip included a visit to the local aquarium. While there, we were afforded the opportunity to get into the water with two dolphins, a male and female, and "swim" with them.
There were two pens, each with two dolphins. Our group was split up, so as to minimize the number of people in each tank and limit the bodies to 6 each.
There were few spectators, as it was a closed environment when we visited.
I spent a half hour watching the dolphins while the others in our group went to the "water show", which was very civilized, I might add.
During that time, I was amazed at the intelligence and sensitivity of this animal. The dolphin in the pen I was close to surfaced, looked me right in the eye and stayed topside while I talked to it very softly. It splashed water at me with it's snout and appeared to return my conversation with it's beeps and sounds. It dove and resurfaced many times during this visit and kept coming back to see me.
It was the first time I had a chance to see this animal close up for real, and I was astounded.
We were then offered the chance to enter the water.
It was done one person at a time.
We all stood in a line, and the dolphins swam up to us, and allowed us to touch them. Soft, like suede they were, and very gentle. They were not commanded to move by their trainer, there was no instruction called or whistled to them. We spent a good 30 minutes in this pen, which was in a lagoon, and had a mesh safety net surrounding it. There was an exit/entry
area, so the dolphins could swim in or out. We did get to ride them as well.
Both dove and put their snout under a foot and then hoisted us out of the water for a 5 second surf.
Then they both surfaced and swam up and
nuzzled me. I can't tell you how much fun it was to get up close.
It was a quiet, soothing visit for us all, and we went home feeling completely different about these animals.
Since then, I have recounted our dolphin swim a hundred times to friends and family and others who asked what it was like.
I know I did not interfere with these animals in any way, they were not forced to "perform" for us, and I would like to think they enjoyed the human contact as much as we enjoyed the dolphin experience.
I respect the opinions of those who disagree with their capture and captivity, but I also know that the ones we visited with were treated very well, were in a good environment and appeared to be just as happy to see us get in the water with them.
I'm sure there are places who do not practice such "humane" approaches, and I myself was surprised to find it in Cuba, but it was there that I learned just how much I want to go back and visit with them again.
The experience made my trip, and if I don't recall another single thing about Cuba, meeting the dolphins will stick with me forever.
I hope that whatever venue you chose that you find one that offers a safe habitat for both swimmer and dolphin.
For those that resent their capture and captivity, I appreciate your sentiments.
Not all animals are treated with such respect.
Dec 11th, 2001, 11:40 AM
Posts: n/a
In no way did I mean to imply that our parks are 'okay' because we breed instead of 'capture', or whatever you were trying to imply. But in fact, it IS better for the dolphin. At least when they are born in captivity, they are not 'ripped' from their family pod out of the ocean. And as long as I'm on my soapbox, I also must say to Kimmie, you are sadly mistaken if you think this dolphin just came up to you, let you 'swim' with him/her and hoist you out of the water without a command from the trainer. With regards to the mesh opening, being able to exit if they wanted...RIGHT! I'll bet. They are still captive. If they had a chance to swim away, back to the ocean where they belong they WOULD. Unless, of course, they have been there since birth and know no other life or how to get food. I do not want to take away from your experience. I've done it once myself, and it was something I will never forget either, but now that I've been educated in these programs and how they work, I'll never do it again.
Has anyone seen the IMAX film, "Dolphins"? It's fantastic. It made my husband and I both get 'teary-eyed'. A real 'feel good' movie in the end.
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