Dolphin Envy

This morning my friends Liz and Mario, who live here on this beautiful isle of Maui, took me to a secret bay where it is possible to swim out to a tribe (is that a ‘pod’?) of spinner dolphins. It’s early mornings when they happen to be there … but on only one of every five attempts does she find dolphins, Liz tells me. This was only my second expedition, and dolphins were there BOTH times. Since we humans love to project all kinds of thoughts and feelings onto dolphins … I’m wondering, does this mean they like me? Are they tuning into my energy? :-)

Spinner dolphins are an endangered species, although they may be coming back due to slightly more sane tuna fishing methods. They like to jump completely out of the water and do fast acrobatic spins before doing a belly or back flop into the water. One possible reason is that males spin to attract females. Spinning may also be play. Individuals have been spotted completing at least 14 spinning jumps in quick succession. Just to make an impression, I tried to spin … not so good.

One has to swim quite far to reach the dolphins way out in the choppy bay. I’m a decent swimmer, but the biggest challenge is tiptoeing over 100 yards of razor sharp volcanic rock — in order to jump into the surf from same sharp rocks without getting hurt — with flippers on! Coming back in, riding up a wave surge to slide onto one small ledge in those sharp rocks is a nice little trick too.

The process of getting in and out of the water in that volcanic bay had sounded dangerous to me for years — and it is — but the waves were not too high and it was not as difficult as I had feared. It is, however, daunting enough to keep the average tourist at bay. Is this why the dolphins choose this bay as a place to hang out in the morning? Do they understand this? I like to think so, and that my going through with this treacherous little adventure constitutes an initiation into their wild dolphin society!

Oh, it is very exciting to be near them (”not allowed to touch marine mammals,” Dolphin Dan — who I met in the middle of the bay — tells me). But would that I could find some greater closeness with my dizzying new friends! Whenever I get really close — within a foot on several occasions — the temptation to reach out is strong if a little scary. These graceful creatures are basically my size. Oh, it’s all fine and legal if they touch you — but I get neither kiss nor nuzzle (let alone a little sonar blast :-). My inner teenage girl wants to connect with my own leaping spinner … after all, Dolphin Dan reportedly has HIS own special dolphin friend!

Now that they let me swim with them, I am dreaming that there could be a special dolphin for me too … a beautiful one who will beckon me and tease me and come to me, like a mermaid. (I’ve got my eye on a cute one I saw both days!) They’re supposed to have a brain as big as ours … I wonder how smart they really are? I haven’t seen them hunt, but they seem to have a fun lifestyle. They are very social (and, according to Wikipedia, known to successfully mate with other species :-). A least they are smart enough to keep a little distance from our species (except for that darn Dan :-).