For as long as I can remember I have loved the sea. I grew up close to the shore and swam often in the water. I love the sound of the breakers crashing on the beach, the smell of the salt and the feeling that there are other lands connected by the waves. As an angst ridden teenager, following yet another disagreement at home I would race to the water lean over the railings and wish I could travel on the water, across to Ireland to America or anywhere. The idea that the sea connects all continents eventually has always excited me.
Back in the day the ecological movement were focussed on saving sea life. I had a Save the Whale t shirt and began to understand how important the seas are, not only to connect the land, but to provide a home for so many species of wildlife. From crabs to barracudas, from sharks to tuna fish, it was the whales and the dolphins that always had my heart.
I do not like any animal in any captivity. No matter how many arguments for conservation I don’t believe it. I think we need to respect animals in their habitat and not hunt, shoot and trap them. If a species is about to die out then we need to stop hunting them and leave them alone. Not trap them and breed them in an artificial world we have created. I don’t go to zoos anymore. I cannot work out if it is better if the captive animals know they should be living in an ocean or a jungle, or if they don’t. Imagine being plucked from your home and given everything you need, but no freedom, that is no life.
I have always wanted to see dolphins in the wild. I have tried to do so several times, visiting Scotland and walking along a shore, and a boat trip, they did not want me to see them that time. I once missed them by ten minutes on holiday in South Wales, it was the talk of the pub how amazing they had been, but once again they did not want me to see them. So, you can imagine my excitement when I realised that the ocean at my holiday destination this year is home to many species of dolphin and whale.
A boat trip was booked, the excitement was rising. My companions were keen to soak up the sunshine and content with the hope that we might see some wildlife. I was anxious and hoping beyond hope, that this time I would be lucky and they would allow me to see them.
We set off in warm sunshine and cruised for an hour or so, at first hugging the coastline then gently heading out to sea. the anticipation was growing, perhaps they would appear. The captain suddenly cut the engine, the boat began to drift and bob on the waves. Whales ahead, oh my goodness, they were really there, a small shoal bobbing below the surface in the distance we could see them blowing for air in time with each other. My heart was soaring, the captain skilfully steered us nearer until we were almost upon them. Majestic creatures, within touching distance. We were in their world and I was captivated. Minutes later they swam off to do whatever whales do on a Saturday afternoon and our engine started up again. Incredibly this amazing experience was repeated again and again as we bumped into other whales, they really were all around us.
Suddenly the ocean had a different meaning for me. Instead of thinking of it as a surface, and something to sail upon, I was conscious of the immense communities below our feet. Later when we moored in a small cove we watched as sea turtles came to visit us. They swam up to and under our boat and once again I was captivated by nature at home.
Sadly it was time to leave the turtle cove and begin to head back to port. I was elated and so, so happy. My companions were in awe of the day, they had swum from the back of the boat, become part of the ocean and played together while I watched with my feet in the water, loving every minute. As we tucked into lunch there was a small part of me was sad that the dolphins had once again eluded me, but being positive I was content to have had such a magical time. I have always thought that when I see them all will be well with my world. A bit like when I spot a rainbow in a dull and rainy sky, I am filled with hope for light after dark. I have always believed the dolphins would be a symbol of hope and love for me.
The coastline was impressive, the skill of the captain brought us close to rocky outcrops of amazing cliffs, we could see people on the beaches and the sun was still shining. A perfect day out. Suddenly the captain swung the boat around and we headed back to sea. Once again the noise of the engine fell silent, and the crew pointed in the distance, dolphins!!! My heart jumped out of my chest, it was true they were there. Once again we bobbed silently towards them. I was sitting with my legs over the side of the boat and there they were Right in front of me, jumping and playing, as dolphins do, they swam up to and under the boat, one incredibly went right below my feet, it was the most magical feeling ever. I wonder if others on the boat noticed the tears falling from my eyes, happy, happy tears. I had done it. A lifetime of wanting to visit these amazing creatures in their world the ambition was realised. I was lost for words.
Once back in port and home to our hotel we were all in awe of what we had seen. The skill of the crew, their passion for the creatures of the sea was amazing. They talked to us of the importance of protecting the wild environment, of how these wonderful wonderful dolphins and whales live long and happy lives in the waters, of how in captivity their lifespan is shorter, it confirmed to me that no matter how big a tank you provide it is never an ocean. I could not thank them enough for our day, the day that dreams had come true.
Later, we were heading out for the evening, still in that happy frame of mind that comes from such an experience. The sky had clouded over and there was light rain coming from the clouds above us. As we walked towards the coast, a magnificent rainbow appeared before us. Dolphins and rainbows in one afternoon, I could barely believe it, my heart was full and all was well with my world.