Ever since I’ve been young, my favourite animal has been the dolphin. Living near the sea, I sometimes caught glimpses of them out beyond the waves, and during a high school camp we went on a dolphin cruise at Jervis Bay, where to my delight they swim beneath the bow of the boat. But I never fulfilled my dream to swim with dolphins.
Once while going on a trip to New Zealand, I was delighted to find out that I could do a boat cruise to go swimming with dolphins at the Bay of Islands, in the north of New Zealand. Most of the boat cruises merely visited the main sights to see, plus offered the chance of seeing dolphins from the boat, but there was one trip that promised the chance to swim with these beautiful creatures! I definitely didn’t pass up the opportunity, and booked with them.
The day of the boat trip dawned sunny and calm, perfect weather to be out on the bay in a boat. We boarded onto the boat and headed out into the beautiful blue and green waters of the Bay of Islands. However, luck was against us, at least in one sense. A pod of orcas, or killer whales, were hanging around the local waters. It was magnificent seeing these huge creatures swim underneath the boat, but as there’re one of the natural predators of dolphins, in particular baby dolphins, the dolphins made themselves scarce. It was a wonderful boat trip, but there was no chance to swim with dolphins.
A year or two later I was visiting New Zealand on another trip, and found out that there were boat trips leaving Whakatane, from the eastern Bay of Plenty, with the chance to swim with dolphins. I couldn’t resist having a second go, and booked onto the boat trip. This trip though was a complete contrast to my previous one. The weather was grey and overcast, looking like rain, and the sea wasn’t that calm. We headed out and tried to find some dolphins, but only came across a few here and there. There were no pods large enough for us to attempt swimming with them. Again for the second time, luck was against me.
Finally, a couple of years later, my husband researched the options to go swimming with dolphins north of Sydney, where we live. There were two main options: going up to Port Stephens or Forster. He choose to buy me a gift voucher for Christmas, to go swimming with the dolphins at Forster, and after Christmas we planned a weekend away.
Bright and early on the Saturday morning, we headed to the wharf where Dive Forster is located. The conditions were sunny and warm, but no promises about the dolphins could be made. The boat headed out to sea, with the captain keeping an eye on the sonar. We spotted a couple of dolphins, but not that many, and continued on. Finally we came across a small pod and it was time to go attempt swimming with them.
I was quite surprised at the set-up. I had expected for us to just jump over the side and paddle around in the water, with the dolphins around us. This is similar to what had happened when I previously swam with whale sharks. However, it was a more adventurous set up. Whilst the boat powered moderately along, and the dolphins swim along side it, one person at a time pulled themselves up a rope to the front of the rope, hanging on to it as the dolphins swam to their side and underneath.
I lined up to go in as soon as possible, eager to not miss out on my chance. Pulling myself along the rope the pull from the water was quite strong, but I held on with both hands. Then for a minute or two I was under the water and could hear the dolphins talking to each other. I tried to get some photos, but the conditions were not the best for photography. And then I felt a tug on the rope, indicating it was time for the next person.
Finally, I had managed to swim with dolphins! It took three goes and a couple of years of trying, but I eventually succeeded. It just goes to show that when wild creatures are involved, you never know when you’ll get lucky. And that if you keep on trying, no matter what it is, you’ll probably eventually succeed! I haven’t tried to swim with dolphins again since then, but maybe next time I’ll also be lucky…