Is the dolphin “smile” the reason why humans have such an affinity for these amazing marine mammals? Or is it their friendly and playful personalities that make them so appealing? Dolphins are featured in human records all the way back to Greek mythology.
One of the most amazing and fun activities my family ever experienced was swimming with the dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. They are so playful and friendly and swam among us, letting us pet them. They are very social and attuned to each other, which is why you so often see pictures of them jumping and diving together. When we were swimming with them, they were always in pairs. They did “kiss” us and wave bye-bye.
The highlight of our swim was a trick in which two dolphins swim up behind you and together they lift you in the air and plow forward in the ocean, giving you an amazing ride.
They are strong, but gentle. They seemed to be having as much fun as we were, but who really knows? Though I must admit I’m not the type who ever fancied being pushed through the air by dolphins, I was really glad I did it. (nope, not me in the pic)
This was one of the best activities my family has ever done, worth every penny. We even bought the video afterwards, which is something I’ve never done before or since.
This is an expensive outing (plan on $150-200 per person). We were told that part of the reason for the high cost is that some of the money is used for research to help the dolphins. I hope that’s true. The trainers we met said they (the trainers) were all marine scientists and the animals were treated well. It was definitely not an amusement park type setup but…
There is controversy over using dolphins to entertain humans, and I can see the problem. These dolphins had been trained to perform and, although their pens were “invisible” to us, they were not fully wild.
On the other hand, there are marine scientists who argue that the money raised through allowing human interaction with dolphins provides funds for research and education that will ultimately help the dolphins. Also, bringing humans into closer contact with dolphins is seen as a way to develop support to save not only the dolphins, but other sea creatures as well.
Dolphins are under threat not only from man (fishing, coastal development, etc.) but also from the general threats to the sea and to all marine life (pollution, pesticides, loss of habitat, etc.).
Ultimately, their fate will most likely depend on humans.
Let me leave you with a few facts about dolphins.
They are social animals who live in groups. They only breathe consciously, not automatically as humans do. They don’t sleep as we know it, but do nap for a few minutes at a time. It is believed they communicate with each other through sounds they make. And finally, to keep us somewhat on topic, dolphins are sexually promiscuous and the males compete for females (in much the same way human males do through displays of power, fighting for dominance in the pecking order and showing off.)
They are awesome animals when seen up close. If you ever get a chance, please put in a good word for them. Keep them smiling!