Thu | Aug 17, 2017

VIDEO: Davi's First Time - Swimming with Dolphins

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 2:00 AMDavina Henry
You know the love is real when Secret (left) and Shakera greet Davi with a kiss.
Bob the parrot seems to have taken a liking to Davi.
Cheese! Lisa the stingray and Davi show off their pearly whites for the camera.
The belly to belly ride was exhilarating.
Party over here! Rommaine Smith (trainer) and I dance the day away with Secret and Shakera.
Trainer Dujon Sharpe instructs Mitch to do a flip.
Trainer Andrew Samuels assists me in getting to know Slim Shady the stingray.
Photobomb at its best – Rommaine (trainer) seems envious of Davi’s double pecks.
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I love the water. I would go to the beach or river all day, every day if I could.

However, I am not a fan of not being able to touch the bottom. So, when I heard that I was to swim with dolphins, my first reaction was sheer terror. The closer we got to Dolphin Cove in St Ann, the more anxious I became.

We were met by Alexei Russell, the vice president of sales, who took us on a tour of the grounds. Our first stop was at the brand new Bird Aviary. Next came the iguana and snake. Having the snake around my neck was terrifying but I put on a brave face for the cameras.

The anticipation to swim with the dolphins was at an all-time high, and then, Alexei uttered five words and my entire world came crashing down 'You'll be swimming with Stingrays'. Anticipation turned to fear, then confusion, then excitement, and finally panic.

After reassuring me that it was safe, I timidly got into the water. The trainer Andrew Samuels, introduced me to Slim, (which I quickly renamed Slim Shady), after assuring me that all the stingrays at Dolphin Cove have had their barbs (the stingers) removed. While I had previously snorkelled, I have never been so close to a stingray the feeling was exhilarating. I was quite impressed with how soft it felt. But every time it got close, or the tail grazed my hand, I panicked a bit.

I eventually began to relax after a few minutes even though my face probably did not convey this to Slim. As nice a stingray as he was, however, I wanted to meet the dolphins.

But first, I had to endure Dolphin 101 with trainer Rommaine Smith. Apparently, there are rules and regulations one must learn before even getting in the water with them.

After a brief chat with Alexei, I learnt that Dolphin Cove has been operational since 2001 and currently has over 33 dolphins. They are a part of the largest swim with dolphins company in the world -Dolphin Discovery. The dolphins are fed foods on Alaskan Herring and squid, and can eat up to 25 to 30 pounds of fish per day.

"What three tips would you give me for swimming with dolphins?" I asked Alexei.

"I only have one tip just have fun," he said.

I decided to heed his advice as I paddled out into the 20-foot deep water in my life vest. My fear of not being able to touch the bottom of the ocean resurfaced and I literally begged Rommaine to stay with me throughout the activities.

I was introduced to dolphins Secret and Shakira, who both came up to give me two big, wet kisses on my cheek. My hands had to be firmly gripping the neck of my vest so as not to touch their eyes or blow holes. They waited patiently for me to return the kisses, on their lips, before returning to trainer, Kimberley McClean.

That was the easy part. Puckering up to dolphins is one thing, swimming with them is another. After dancing and singing for me (I tried to imitate their dolphin sounds, I'm sure they were looking at me like I was crazy) it was time for the 'Belly To Belly Ride'.

I swam out further (with Rommaine by my side of course), and gently tapped the water so that they could find me (dolphins have sonar sense). Secret swam up to me, flipped on her back, stuck out her fins, and pulled me, belly to belly for a few metres. After she released me, I was sputtering for air but I loved every second of it.

But the highlight activity was the Foot Push. While floating on my stomach, Secret and Shakira swam up behind me and, using their mouths, pushed the soles of my feet, propelling my whole body across the water, and eventually into the air. My brief flight ended with a fantastic belly flop, causing me to swallow about 10 gallons of salt water in the process. They begged, pleaded and offered several incentives for me to redo this trick. But there was no convincing me. I had swallowed enough water for a lifetime and I refused to take in anymore of the dolphins' habitat. Eventually they gave up on me and Rommaine decided to show me how it should really be done.

Swimming with dolphins was definitely on my bucket list and I can now cross it off. It was exciting, exhilarating and downright unbridled fun! Dolphin Cove is definitely a place where you go for the day but remember for a lifetime.