Some pictures from our trip to Jamaica.
Round Hill is a resort near Montego Bay and it is beautiful and the villas with the private swimming pools are amazing.
View from villa
In the villa everything was a pristine white.
This was the view from the bedroom
…and this is the bedroom
The beach was a bit small but beautiful:
We even had our own little terrace where we could have coffee, eat our breakfast and watch the ocean:
I miss the beach. Le Sigh.
Posted: October 27th, 2011
, montego bay
, Round Hill
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My husband says it was a dream come true for me. Soooo… OK, let’s go with that.
I’ve never actually dreamed about it because, let’s face it, how many people look at a dolphin and say to themselves “I wish I could swim with HIM!”? But I digress.
We were in Montego Bay, Jamaica and were staying at Round Hill (more on that later). The “swim with dolphins” activity was one of the options listed on the activity list “Explore Jamaica!” along other things like “Visit the Jamaican bobsled team’s practice grounds” and “go ziplining” – both options while extremely appealing are not something someone would pine over. Maybe I’m wrong.
From the many options available at the dolphin place, I chose the “Encounter Swim” experience – which promised to be all that and more. This was not the most expensive option but not the cheapest either so I was hoping that I wouldn’t feel completely ripped off and would get to see (and potentially touch) one dolphin.
Dolphin Cove Jamaica
Here we are some $200 later ($103 for the “Encounter Swim”, $60 plus tax and service for the taxi to the place, $35 for the admission for my husband, some money for tips – you know, the usual), I’m strapped in my life jacket, waiting for someone to come and give us our training. And here he comes.
His name is Skinny and he shows up humming Tina Turner’s “What’s love got to do with it?” which is sort of a relief after a whole week of nothing but “One love, one life” and “No woman, no cry” in every imaginable style. Yes, even easy listening and yes, even jazz. Shudder…
Skinny is very much into what he’s doing. He loves it and wants us to know that he does. And the best way to do this is by yelling at us really, really loudly and trying to get us to yell back all sorts of random stuff like “bay!” (I say “Montego”, you say “Bay!”) and “cove!” (I say “dolphin”, you say “cove!”) which I assume will be essential in case one of us starts drowning or is pulled over by a overly playful animal. I’m telling you, this stuff can save your life.
Skinny is putting up a real show pretending to write stuff on a blackboard and quizzing us on what dolphins eat, (fish, in case you’re interested) and how they reproduce (they give birth to live offspring and they gestate for 18 months). Again, life-saving information delivered in a super high-energy, extra annoying loud voice that’s supposed to pump us up and make us have fun, have fun!
Eventually Skinny is done with his little intro and they ask us to line up in two rows: red bracelets at the left, gray bracelets at the right but some people don’t speak English so we all end up in this random mob not making any sense anymore.
Eventually they sort us out and lead us to the floating dock where the dolphins are corralled swimming around in circles. The more expensive red bracelets are led to the left while we cheapskates go to the right.
There’s a last tug on my life jacket by the trainer guy that takes the wind out of me and we’re encouraged to jump right in.
Once in the water the trainers start directing us to swim this way, no, that way, a little more to the right, keep going, stop there, line up, shoulder to shoulder until we’re all bobbing up and down in a straight line twenty meters away from the floating dock. Then they ask us to start spinning and I’m starting to wonder if we’re the ones actually doing the show? You know, you get what you pay for and apparently I didn’t shell out enough money to swim WITH the dolphins, I have to swim FOR the dolphins.
Putting on a show for the dolphins
But spin we do, all ten of us, neatly lined up and eventually the two dolphins show up and start spinning along with us.
Their names are Sandra and Shakira (if there was a large bottom somewhere I didn’t see it) and they are extremely well trained.
The trainer has a whistle, barely audible to us but one that gets the dolphins to execute in very precise motions all sorts of commands. Their eyes are locked on their trainer who holds a bucket of fish and throws one to each dolphin every time they do something more complex than just swimming to and from another spot. The trainer gets them to demonstrate how they sing and how they communicate through their blow hole and they dutifully make the cackling dolphin noises and the click-of-the-tongue sounds that allow them to use their sonar for orientation.
They spin, jump out of the water, pretend to nod and shake their heads and get a fish or two after every such move.
We each get to take our picture with one of the dolphins pretending to give us a kiss and they stand there with their nose stuck to my face until the photographer is satisfied that he got a good shot. We’re not supposed to touch them though so we’re grabbing onto our life jackets to make sure that our hands don’t accidentally go for an unauthorized touch.
Finally we line up for one last “encounter” and we each wait at the end of the line for the dolphin to pop up in front of us, stand up while we grab onto its fins and let us be dragged on top of its belly for about fifty meters or so. I watch each person in front of me wait for their turn, raise their hands and grab onto the fins before being dragged along the surface of the water and can’t help but wonder at the precision of these amazing creatures. They never get too close, they pop up a few centimeters away from the person and stand there waiting to be grabbed by the fins. If someone loses their grip, they patiently wait for the person to latch back on and keep going.
Dolphin piggyback ride (dolphin back?)
It’s my turn now and I’m standing there, threading water, with my arms up in the air waiting for the dolphin to swim towards me. I can’t see where she is but all of a sudden she pops up in front of my face and stretches her little fins out to me. I grab on and it feels very fragile like I could easily rip it off if I’m not careful. But I’m also worried about letting go, we’re going fast now and if she’s in any pain I can’t tell. The water is whizzing past me like I’m on jet skis and before I know it we’re almost at the floating wall and we stopped.
Hand in flipper
I want to reach out and touch her as a way of apologizing for being a burden but before I can get to her I hear the trainer yell at me “no, no, don’t do that! move away! move away!” and I sort of lose my grip and start sinking under the floating pier. You cannot touch a dolphin whenever you damn well please. It has to be authorized. I should have known. Oh well…
By the time I catch my breath, we’re being ordered to form another line so that we can “touch a dolphin” in an organized manner. We all stand there with our hands outstretched while the two dolphins swim by and let us touch them. Their skin feels rubbery and warmer than I expected it to be even though I know, because Skinny screamed it at me earlier and because I learned in seventh grade, that they are warm-blooded animals.
And that’s it. We’re now ordered to clap and to start swimming towards the steps that lead out of the water, we are told where the fresh water showers are and that, of course, tips are appreciated. Oh, and if we want to buy any of the pictures, there are packages available to us. There’s video also. Just like at Six Flags.
But who can resist a picture of being kissed by a dolphin?? Even a staged one like mine? And another $50 later the “dolphin encounter” is over and off we go.
My husband asks if it was amazing and it was. It was really amazing to see these creatures up close like that. But at the same time something feels very, very wrong about it too. These are the smartest animals on the planet (allegedly, next to us) and yet here we are teaching them how to jump through hoops and drag tourists through the water and pose for pictures. We’re hunting them and cooking them and if we occasionally rescue one (like one of the dolphins here was rescued) we make them star in a circus meant to entertain whoever has a couple of hundred dollars to spend on it.
And I was just part of it.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe that they would just swim around freely and come over if they wanted to play? Maybe something closer to a petting zoo and less of a show? I don’t know but I do know that if I ever swim with a dolphin again (which I hope I get to do) it will not be in captivity like this.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the $175 version of the dolphin encounter program was similar to this but with more cowbell. You got to swim with TWO dolphins at the same time and you got to be pushed from the water by their noses and fly through the air.
…and thanks for all the fish
So this one was just hanging out there. I was happy for her.
Posted: August 15th, 2011
, montego bay
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