Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Swimming with Dolphins

Last week, I went on a guided swim with dolphins at Kona, Hawaii. On the boat was myself, J, a middle-aged German couple, and an elderly couple. First, a scouter boat located the pod, then we headed a little north of Kailua-Kona to the dolphin pod. The boat did a 180° turn so that we would be moving south in the same direction as the pod, but hit the pod at a slight angle so as not to threaten them.

We all hopped off the boat with snorkel and flippers. We saw dolphins approaching in the distance. They were spinner dolphins – sleek and gray, and they would quickly spin along their longitudinal axis while jumping. When we got in the water, a few dolphins were curious about us, and approached us from below. They were only a few feet away. I wanted to reach out to the dolphin, but the guide said their skin had a protective film, and touching could damage that. She said dolphins in captivity can be petted because they are loaded up on antibiotics. We were also told not to move our arms and made sure not to splash the surface of the water, since that is what dolphins do when they are annoyed. Afterwards, the group of dolphins swam away. I tried following them, but they were too fast (they can swim 30 mph!). For five minutes or so, I saw other dolphins swim by. Some would come to the surface right in front of me, and breach and spin. When the whole pod had gone by, we got back on the boat to find them again. The second time, I only got to catch a passing glimpse of a couple of dolphins. By now they were swimming fast, focused on getting to their sleeping spot. The pod zoomed past without stopping.

We got back on the boat and headed back south towards Captain Cook. By now I was feeling extremely seasick, which was unusual since I had never gotten seasick before. The boat was not very sturdy; it had a pontoon surrounding its hull, so it did not displace that much water and rocked a lot. Also, I got really dizzy snorkeling, with the waves rocking my head side-to-side, and ended up spending most of the time on a pool noodle, staring at the shore. Afterwards, we headed back, and I vomited on four separate occasions. I was trying to do it as politely as possible off the side of the boat, and was worried that I was ruining everyone’s trip. But the other couples were nice about it and offered medicine (too late though, it needs to be taken the night before). After the third bout of vomiting, I thought I’d be able to hold out, but when the boat was docked and the guide was making preparations to disembark, I threw up again.

And this is where the story ends. At the airport for the flight back, I saw a couple waving wildly towards me. I didn’t recognize them, so I thought they must have been waving at someone else. But then they pantomimed vomiting on the floor. My brain finally clicked. They were the German couple! (Their English was not too good.) It turned out that they sat in the row behind me on the plane, and they showed me all the pictures they had taken. There was a picture of all of us snorkeling, with a dolphin jumping in a perfect arc just in front of us. And so, as we went our separate ways, I knew they would always look back on the experience and remember me as the vomit girl.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *