I have always had a dream to swim with dolphins.
I have even had a tattoo image in my mind for years of a dolphin jumping over a rainbow. Imagine the most over the top sick image of the most glorious scene. Fractals of light coming through the waves, a sunset of some sort with an orangey glow casting warmth on the water and a spinner dolphin breaking through the centre of the image, soaring right between a perfect rainbow and blasting shards of light out of the waves. There is a palm tree somewhere in the image and prisms of light reflecting off the ocean. If you looked at it you would probably laugh at the cheeziness of the picture and yet you would also feel longing. “Is it possible?” you would think to yourself, “is that much beauty real?
We get on the boat as the sun rose. The website said there was a 90% chance you would get to swim with the dolphins and if there was a pregnant lady on board the likelihood rose to 97%.
We ride out to sea. Nothing. An hour later. Still nothing. Of fucking course I am the 3%. Okay Em, Deal with this shit. Even the dolphins don’t want to meet your baby. Captain Bob and first mate Justin were making hand gestures that looked like “what the fuck?” and “I don’t know?”
As we search the sea first mate Justin teaches us the signs for when we are in the water. Cupping our hands together means we want to go back to the boat. Tapping our heads means we are fine. Waving hysterically means we need assistance. Pretty simple.
Then we see them.
A mama whale and her baby are breaching. “Oh” they exclaim “that’s why there are no dolphins nearby, mama and baby are in their bay” We watch the placid creatures rise and fall out of the ocean, gleaming peace at us in the morning sun. They disappear under the water one last time and as if in perfect harmony all of a sudden the water comes alive with Spinners. Hundreds of them, jumping, spinning twelve times in a row before diving back down, chasing the boat. I run to the front like the bitch in titanic and instead of looking up with my chest outstretched I look down and scream like a teenager at a Katy Perry concert. They are leaping in the waves below me. They are playing with the boat. Babies! Fucking baby dolphins are frolicking in the foam. If this was all that today was going to be- it would be more than enough. All around us is a playground of three hundred dolphins and we are all by ourselves with them. “Pool is open” Cap’t Bob says and I dive in.
Rules to swimming with dolphins:
- When you are in the water, do not touch the dolphins. Let there be space between them, the water and you.
- Show them your belly like a cat does, this tells them you are friendly and fun.
- Do not try to chase the dolphins. They will outrun you every time. Instead, do your own thing, enjoy your time in the water. They will then get curious and want to come and play.
- Breathe deep and slowly.
- Do not take pictures of the dolphins. This is annoying. Just be with them now.
- Be a dolphin. Get right into the middle of the pod.
- Keep your hands at your sides. Let your flippers do the work.
I look to my left, Dolphins.
To my right. Dolphins.
Underneath me. Dolphins.
In front of me. Dolphins.
Jumping over top of me. Dolphins.
Their eyes are old and slightly slanted, like I imagine God’s eyes to be. They are deep and dark and on first glance you may think sad but when looking closer you realize it’s way bigger than that- it’s simply a knowing that I will never get to know.
I swim with them far out to sea. I leave the boat and my friends and first mate Justin behind. I follow the dolphins. There is no fear. I am part of the pack. We swim for minutes, hours, I don’t know. They play around me. If I had twitched a finger out I would have been able to touch them but I don’t, I let them have their space between me and the water. We swim out way past the reef until I can’t see the bottom anymore. We swim and swim and swim and my mind is empty. I use my flippers to kick and I know I can go forever. My energy is boundless. The more I kick, the more force I create. I am never ending and all encompassing and full.
All of a sudden it gets dark and murky. Black. The dolphins, all of them at the exact same time dive into the deep and are gone. I look back. I can see my friends and Justin and the boat coming towards me so I wait, treading water. Alone.
Justin looks around.
“This is weird” he says “where did they all go? Get back in the boat.”
We do. And as soon as I towel off the dolphins come back. All three hundred are jumping around and babies are belly flopping. The sea is alive as far as we can see. We squeal and clap and Cap’t Bob yells “pools open” so we dive back in.
And again, they plunge straight down.
We swim around. I go out again by myself. Far out. Maybe they want to just hang out with me.
Justin yells “this is very weird. I don’t understand. Get back in the boat.”
So I do.
And they come back.
We play this game three more times.
Every time I get back in the boat the little fuckers came back to play. It is like they are teasing us. I’m getting kind of annoyed. I know I just had the most amazing experience of my life here. I know I got more than I ever could have imagined but I want it again. “Just one more time dolphins. Please, swim with me one more time, please.”
They come back.
I dive in. I pray for them to show themselves. I am pushing for their love- I can feel it.
The water is pitch black with streams of sunlight shining underneath us.
I hear Justin yell “Cap’t Bob” so I turned to look at him and that’s when I see it. A hand sign he had not taught us. He puts his hand to his head in the universal symbol of “shark.”
I am out the farthest and I can’t see anything underneath me. I swim like a bullet back to the boat. My brain is blank and I am completely calm. All I think is “get the baby safe.” Cap’t Bob is waiting to haul me up but I do not take his hand. With sudden super human strength I hoist myself onto the deck flippers and mask and belly and all. It is only then I realize I have passed everyone else in the water.
As I am toweling off they heave themselves on board.
“It was a great white” Justin says “right below us.”
“I saw the shadow” Rachel says “about 10 feet long.”
We look out to sea but there is nothing.
And then they start laughing. “Holy shit, you became an Ironman competitor” Rachel wheezes, “you flew out of the water.” All I could see was a streak pass me” Misty laughs. I’m shaking.
They were taking care of us we figured out later. Sharks hate dolphins and will leave the scene if they are around. Also dolphins attack sharks, so the game we were playing before was not a game. When we would enter the water, they dove down between us and the great white shark- to protect us.
I get back in the water one more time, just to prove that I can. I send the dolphins my thanks for their protection. I assumed that I was not in any real danger, but what the fuck I was not going to screw around with a Great White.
The dolphins lead us home. In the bay nearest the marina they stop suddenly and drift off to sleep. Hundreds of dolphins bobbing and resting in the water, take a mental picture of that for later, I thought- it was just too much beauty.
We thank Cap’t Bob and First Mate Justin and get in the car and drive.
We head for a beach that I call my spirit beach. I have never taken anyone there before. I used to say that I wanted my ashes dumped there when I died but it was kind of a problem because no one knew where the beach was or what it was called so I thought I should show someone for future notice. I walk out into the ocean. It is so calm. There are no waves. I float. I float and I float and when the women go in and call out to me that it is time to catch our plane I float some more. I walk out of the water, towel off and then run back in… I keep floating. I do not want to ever stop.
I say to Rachel, my midwife and best friend who was in Hawaii with me. “Remind me of this, when I am in labour. Remind me of the waves, remind me of the floating, remind me of being held up.” I float one last time alone in the ocean as they walk back to the car. I feel the water cradling me and at the same time me cradling my child and I thank Pele the volcano God for finally answering my prayer.