If I were to choose one animal as my favourite of all, dolphins would be a prime candidate. The wish to visit Dolphin Cove and interact with the adorable mammal has been present for as long as I can remember, but it was always believed to be financially out of my league. The desire was shelved for some time until my visit to the Bahamas last year granted the opportunity to briefly pet and kiss a dolphin.

Soon after returning from said trip, I randomly came across a saleswoman on Constant Spring Road advertising a Dolphin Cove coupon booklet, which I believed was one of those examples of consciously attracting opportunities into your life. After reading the details and conversing for 5 minutes about this local deal, almost without a second thought I purchased the booklet and informed a group of my closest friends in hope of planning an outing within the next 6 months (the lifespan of the coupons).

It wasn’t until the very morning of the excursion that I definitely knew I was going, as busy schedules and vehicular troubles were continuous plagues of my friends the numerous of times I suggested the trip. With the expiry date approaching and options thinning, I started viewing the coupons as  opportunities to strengthen ties with mere acquaintances, inviting persons I’ve never physically bonded with before; sadly, that didn’t work out either. Not wanting the discounted opportunity to pass, I and my usual accomplice decided to make the trip despite some less-than-ideal circumstances. On arriving at the venue, it seems like everyone there had their decision to come influenced by coupons! I was actually hoping to share my wealth with other patrons as I had more than needed, but they all had their own.

After checking in, my dolphin encounter was scheduled for 1pm, which gave us 20 minutes to spare. The time was used to visit the gift shop to cop a free t-shirt (a bonus from the booklet), then the mini zoo. The first stop was at the aviary which housed dozens of small, colourful birds pitching on anything or anyone within the space. Hills of food disappeared in seconds as birdies crowded my cupped hands as they feasted, while others took residence on my shoulders and head. On leaving the aviary, we met 3 parrots who greeted with the ‘morning special’ of a kiss on the cheek, then perched themselves on forearms and fists. As the clock neared 1:00pm, 1 of the parrots uttered “hello” just as I walked past him to return to the lagoon area for the dolphin swim experience.

Only 1 of us entered the gates for the activity, as my beau exclaimed “me nah swim with no animal”, and opted to watch from the outside. I was placed in a group of 6 with 3 tourists from the U.S.A, plus a father and son pair, where for about 30 minutes we were afforded the opportunity to pet, kiss, hold, ‘dance’ and swim with 1 of 2 dolphins named Mitch and Sky. The swim experience with a single dolphin included holding your rubbery companion by its fins while it leisurely swam backwards from the centre of the lagoon with you on its underside. Following the interactions, the knowledgeable trainers taught us a few interesting facts about dolphins (see some below) and orchestrated a series of tricks and a short display by all the dolphins in the lagoon. We eagerly visited the gift shop to view the exclusive photos taken by the on-site photographer; sadly, I didn’t budget for image purchasing, so instead settled for saving them in my memory.

Returning to the mini zoo, my courage was tested as I timidly asked to hold Charlie, the iguana; he was laid on my tense shoulders as I looked the other way. With a face only a mother iguana could love, it took a while to be able to face the large, green lizard on my shoulders without cringing. Heavier than I expected, the inquisitive lizard started moving toward my other shoulder, having his plump arm resting on my throat as he grazed my unsuspecting fingers with his tongue. The trainer lifted him as his leg entangled in my hair, then re-positioned him to 1 side of my body. The initial fright was now gone, never did I expect to bond with a lizard of any size; average-sized lizards however are still not welcome in my personal space. Some meters away was a pen of bouncing bunnies, bucking the cuteness radar! Following a few unsuccessful attempts to pet and lift the rabbits, it wasn’t until 1 became amused by the fuzziness of my towel and started scratching at it that others became more curious. I sat on the ground and allowed the hopping hares to approach, where they shared great delight in scratching at the towel around my waist and nibbling at my floral slippers as I fed them morsels of carrots found on the ground.

Done bonding with the feathered and the fuzzy, it was time to take a dip in search of stingrays! Suited up with a life vest and snorkel gear, I made 2 laps around a defined snorkeling area but to my disappointment saw no stingrays… at least not while in the water. I noticed 1 transitioning from the other side of the fence while I strolled around the border that separated the snorkel area from the rest of the sea. Beau, on the other hand, who initially “nah swim with no animal” got the shock of his life as a stingray swam right beneath him… HA! What a surprise he got.

It was time for the shark show where 3 trainers gave a 15-minute presentation featuring 2 nurse sharks. The show was laced with wit, humour, and the forceful chomps of a feeding nurse shark… WOW! The excursion was wrapped up with a shoot down a spiral water slide and a 10-minute motorboat ride to view the base of the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls where the river met the sea. A quick wash off courtesy of natural springs fed through pipes, and a change of clothes ended a fun-filled day as we prepared to head back to Kingston.

FUN FACTS

• Dolphins only have 3 senses – sight, hearing, touch

• They don’t chew their food. They instead use their teeth for playing/fighting

• The force of a hit from their tail can be lethal

• Their top fins are equivalent to a human’s fingerprint; it’s their unique identifier