I’ve just returned from Bimini where I led a group of people on a week long Wild Dolphin Swim and boy am I having a hard time returning to normal life! I’ve been home for four days now and I feel like my heart is still with the dolphins, still in the Bahamas with the sunrises, the crazy humidity, the homemade food, the playful birds, the thunder (the loudest I’ve ever heard), and last but not least, the exceptional group of people who joined together to create this extraordinary experience. Everything in New England just seems a little… boring! I know, I know, give me a few more days to adjust and I’ll be back to my ol happy self but for now, I’m really enjoying basking in the dolphin energy – and for good reason: In just a couple days, the dolphins RELIEVED me of a long time phobia!
This dolphin trip gave me an opportunity to overcome a fear I’ve suffered from for the past fifteen years – open water. (Are you laughing like my husband did that I had scheduled a wild dolphin swim which can only possibly take place in open water – the thing that I am the most afraid of?). I developed the phobia on a snorkeling trip in Kauai more than fifteen years ago. The captain of the boat thought it would be funny to throw a huge bowl of bread into the water near me while I was innocently swimming with the fish. The ensuing frenzy of nips and touches and grabs as the fish (understandably) went after the food freaked me out to no end, and until last week I hadn’t actually been back in any body of water other than a pool since that August, fifteen years ago!
My first day in the water was fraught with snorkel mishaps (I went through three because they kept breaking) which turned out to be a good distraction from my fear of the water. If you can’t breathe underwater, you can’t spend much time in it freaking out. I saw the dolphins from afar, but because I had to jump back on the boat three times, I wasn’t really able to connect or explore with them.
Our second day out in the water was completely different. We had two wild dolphin encounters. During the first swim, I stayed with the group and kept popping my head up to find the other swimmers, the boat, and the dolphins. It was a lot of work for me continually keep track of everything and while I did get more up close and personal with several dolphins who came to play with me, I never really relaxed into it because of my worry about getting lost at sea. Basically, out of fear, I was being a control freak.
But it was the second encounter that day where everything changed. The group of dolphins we had found were in a very playful mood. They would gather in a group, dive down to the sandy bottom together and then re-emerge, sometimes jumping out of the water only to do it all over again. One dolphin swam right toward me – so quickly and so close that I tucked my legs and arms in so as not to touch him. He stopped and looked at me and I felt an immediate tugging at my heart. I suddenly knew that I was totally safe and protected in that water. The dolphins knew that we needed that safety and in that moment, I realized that we were being provided with it. I stopped worrying about where the boat was, where the other snorkelers were and I entered into a beautiful feeling of communion. More dolphins came by, looked me in the eye, swam under my feet, swam three inches from my head… and I just went with it. I never wanted those moments to end and even just writing about this, I feel happy and clear.
Alas, the dolphins know when to say goodbye though and suddenly they were all 30 yards away from us, playing, jumping and having a grand ol’ time. We said our own goodbyes, got back on the boat – and I sat there reveling how completely calm, safe, and secure I had felt in the open water.
I cannot wait to go back to swim with the dolphins again! In fact, this experience moved me so much that I am going to start my next book by talking (much more in depth!) about it. It was no small feat to get me to feel comfortable in the open ocean – and to want to go back? My husband is amazed and so am I!
Stay tuned as I’ll share more about my experience in others ways as well! Hopefully, I’ll have some photos too! (I was too mesmerized and never made it to taking photos of the dolphins themselves!)