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I had mixed emotions of fear and excitement as I waited nervously…It was some years ago butI could not forget that kiss.
I had mixed emotions of fear and excitement as I waited nervously for the kiss, and the minute the dolphin’s cold snout landed on my cheek-and stayed there for several long seconds, I froze. That was some years ago but I could not forget that kiss.
It was the first time I saw real live dolphins outside the television screen and got a kiss from one, too. We were at the Dolphins Pacific Bay, one of the rare places in the world where people could experience close encounter and interaction with the dolphins, lessons you will not get in the classrooms.
Eight dolphins occupy the lagoons and only two of them are males, Echo and J. The females are Surech, Rubak, Ariel, Ekei, Layla, and Roxanne. Ramirez said each dolphin can be identified by its own distinctive features.
We watched in fascination as the dolphins dived, executed perfect somersaults, flipped over, waved their tails, and followed orders from the trainers.
Our tour guide told us training the dolphins takes at least two months and you have to get them into activity every single day. He added that using the reward system helps, which means they will reward a dolphin with fish or ice cubes if they follow the instructions and do something right. Because dolphins tend to eat leaves that fall into the lagoon and eventually get sick from it, the trainers taught the dolphins to retrieve leaves and give it to them, and the dolphins get rewards for doing so.
It also puzzled me that dolphins live in salt water yet they drink fresh water. Every couple of days or so, dolphins are given water through a funnel and a hose and they sure drink a lot! Interaction with the dolphins starts with an educational lecture about the natural history of dolphins and getting acquainted with the eight dolphins from their photos.
This is followed by a walk along the lagoons and finally getting into a wading platform where one is given the rare chance to touch a dolphin’s body, and get a handshake or a kiss from them.
A closer interaction is also available. You can snorkel, swim, scuba dive or dive with the dolphins and see their world beneath the surface of the water.
Dolphins are sensitive creatures, according to our guide.
“If you make unnecessary movements or actions they will get confused and this could affect them but they are very playful,” he said.
“The purpose of this dolphin facility is to teach people to study the special abilities of dolphins, to put them as teaching materials for environmental education,” our guide said.
He said it is important for people, particularly the children to learn the importance of protecting the dolphins and saving them for the future generations. The Dolphin facility in Palau costing $2.5 million was established in July 20, 2000. The dolphins were brought in from Japan in 2001 and were trained there. The Dolphin Bay is one of the main tourist attractions of Palau and any visit to Palau just won’t be complete without going there.
The Dolphin Bay has carved its own niche as a destination not only for tourists but for locals, for children, elderly people and the handicapped.
A whole lot of activities has been added since I last visited the place, and you can even exchange wedding vows with the dolphins watching! The current tour fee is $60 per adult and kids 12 years and up and $50 for kids 11 years old and below. They have photo services so you can be assured you’re taking home photos taken by professionals but I got a special pass to use my camera.
Dolphin Bay is a five-minute a boat ride away from the NECO Marine dock in Malakal. Boat fee is $10 round trip for adults and half price for kids 12 years old and below. Reservations required. Local taxis can pick you up from your hotel to the ticket center at NECO.
Check their website at http://www.dolphinspacific.com for the latest updates.