Let’s talk about bucket lists. What’s on yours? I have so many things on mine….mostly destinations like Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Cambodia. But I also dream about doing things that make me feel brave. Most recently, I took a 40 mile bike ride through NYC’s five boroughs. That was brave. This past weekend while traveling in the Bahamas on a solo trip, I decided to have another adventure: swimming with dolphins. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and there’s certainly no time like the present. Dolphins are smart, beautiful creatures and they are wonderful swimming companions. It was certainly a bucket-worthy experience.
In Grand Bahama Islands, the place do this is at UNEXCO, the Underwater Explorers Society, which offers professionally led dolphin experiences. UNEXCO offers highly trained instructors who provide ample attention to everyone who signs up. Mine was funny, sincere and he made the experience run smoothly and professionally. The company does have strict height rules: The height requirement for a swim is 55 inches, but there is no requirement for the “Encounter,” which your kids will also love. During the “Encounter,”kids and adults get to go into the pool with the dolphins and watch them get fed, do tricks and play with them. They are very well-trained and there isn’t much to be afraid of. Younger kids will love the experience – particularly getting a kiss at the end.
Both groups of tour goers are taken to a protected 9 acre lagoon called “Sanctuary Bay” by boat about twenty minutes away from the port to meet a group of Atlantic dolphins. They keep 14 Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins there. A fun tid bit revealed by my instructor: Film director Ron Howard donated several dolphins after the film”Cocoon” was made. Those few dolphins spawned several others, and a business was born: UNEXSO. As the “Swimmers,” we were taken to a separate pool were we were debriefed on the dolphins. We were told what parts of their body not to touch, where to swim, how to dive and were shown a few hand movements to prompt certain behaviors. Within minutes, I was in the pool, swimming side by side the two dolphins. They were such a delight to swim with. I didn’t need a life jacket since I can swim reasonable well, so I just taking dives into the deep water, and they in turn, took dives into the water. We were racing each other, and it was just as fun as swimming with a real person. Then we gently tapped the water, spun our bodies around, to prompt them to turn around, speak, splash and wave.
Then I was able to really feel the speed and agility of the ocean’s most memorable inhabitants by swimming between the two dolphins. I literally had one hand on each and sped across the pool. To top it off, I was told to pucker up my lips and one of the dolphins landed a lovely kiss on my lips. It was really an experience. I was probably in the water with them for about 20-30 minutes, as there was another group who went after me. It was exhilarating and felt like a long time. The instructors were patient and didn’t rush any of us.
Afterwards, I treated myself to a pina colada and sat on the beach for two hours, reflecting on my dolphins experience, proud of myself for being so adventurous.
The price of the “Encounter” is $85; the swim is $179. UNEXSO is located in Freeport across from the Grand Lacayan. For more information, head to unexco.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: I paid my own way, no compensation was provided for this experience.