Sunday, April 5, 2009

Swimming with dolphins

Some people dream of flying to the Moon. Others dream to retire early. Other humans would give an arm and a leg, if they could fulfill their dream of swimming with wild dolphins.

If you happen to be in Bali, there are interesting locations to spot dolphins in their natural habitat or even swim with them in a salt-water pool as both is possible in the northern part of the island. While you can book the ‘famous’ Dolphin Tours at almost every hotel around Singaraja or Lovina; to swim (and touch) Dolphins in the open sea is an almost impossible thing to do.

They are way too fast and mainly are surrounded by hordes of motorized Outrigger Boats - filled with tourists of course - who shoot towards every spot, where a dolphin is just showing his long bottle-neck nose out of the water.

Nevertheless, it can be an interesting trip, as the beautiful sunrise over the northern mountains is already a rewarding experience - dolphins or not. The prices for these tours are usually fixed around Rp.40.000 to Rp.50.000 per person. You will start before sunrise (around 6am) for about 60-90 minutes and the chance to see dolphins are well above 50%. They travel usually in groups of 5-6 and you can see several groups of adults and young dolphins swimming and playing in the shallow northern waters, hunting for food.

To swim with Dolphins, you have to check out a different location: the Hotel Melka Excelsior in Kalibukbuk/Lovina in North Bali. Although the room rates are on the higher edge for Bali’s 3-Star Hotel standards (especially in the North), the chance of swimming with the dolphin is for sure worth the visit. You don’t have to live in the hotel to be able to watch them in some larger salt-water pools in the hotel, which are inhabited by the dolphins. Just pay the requested money. Isn’t everything always about money in the end? The Hotel features a small zoo of other Bali Wildlife as well.

There is a lot of controversy around that subject - Swimming with Dolphins - as you can see on several forums or websites. My 2 cents are, that while every month hundreds of whales, dolphins and other endangered species are killed around the world for ‘Scientific Reasons’ or plain strange food or ‘Exotic Medicine’ cravings; I do subscribe to the idea to let people swim with dolphins in swimming basins. You should see the shining faces of little children or the hearty laughs of elderly people who fulfill themselves a dream by swimming around a pool with 2-3 dolphins!

The most famous dolphins in the Melka Hotel are called ‘Jack’ and ‘John’, two naughty young males, who really seem to enjoy playing with visitors in their wet environment. They even try to copulate with the swimmer, if they are in the right mood. I remember reading somewhere that dolphins are among the few animals who enjoy sex as a pleasure and not only for reproduction. Not that you have to be afraid of that, though. Their games are mainly only pushing you from down below, swimming around you and “dancing” together, while involving the willing victim in their plays. You can hear the typical Dolphin Sounds, you probably know from plenty of Jacques Cousteau films or ‘Flipper’ flicks.

All in all the dolphins look healthy and well-fed. Of course you can’t judge from a dolphin’s ‘smile’ if they are treated well or generally happy. The children who swim with them are for sure and hopefully experience the fragile nature and the gentle charms of these beautiful animals.