Sea Life Park
The main event today would be Sea Life Park, where my mom and I would be able to swim and interact with dolphins! How cool is that? Then, later in the evening I was able to getting dinner with an old friend and even catch some fireworks over Waikiki Beach.
About a year ago, I had a friend go to Hawaii and I saw pictures of her kissing a dolphin. I swore that if I ever got to go to Hawaii, swimming with dolphins was definitely going to be something I did. So, when we started planning our trip for Hawaii, I found Sea Life Park, which had different packages for interacting with dolphins. My mom chose to do the “Dolphin Encounter” which meant that she would get a kiss on the cheek and lips from a dolphin and would also get to “play” with a dolphin. I chose to do the “Dolphin Adventure” package, which meant that I would get the two kisses, and I would actually get to have the dolphin pull me through the water. Basically, I would get to ride a dolphin. My swim time was at 11:00 but I had to be checked in my 10:45 so I could get my life jacket and get ready to go. My mom’s swim time was at 11:45, but when we found out that my mom wouldn’t be able to watch me and be able to make her swim time, we managed to get her swim time changed to 1:00.
On our way to Sea Life Park, we decided to stop at many of the”Scenic Lookouts” that are often on the sides of the highways. They’re small little spots where you can pull your car off to the side of the road (sometimes they even have a small parking lot) and you can get out and enjoy the view. Most give stunning views of the mountains or oceans.
We finally got to the park around 10:30, and I headed to the check-in for my dolphin adventure. I got my life jacket, and then some of the staff briefed us on what to expect. They cautioned us to pet, not scratch, the dolphins because their skin was very sensitive, and we had to follow the trainer’s instructions at all times. They also told us they were going to have a professional photographer there and explained the different poses we should make with the dolphin. Of course, spectators were only allowed so close to the pool, so if you wanted fantastic pictures, you pretty much had to buy the ones taken by the professional photographer, and they weren’t cheap. Then again, this was pretty much a once in a lifetime experience, so it’s pretty hard to pass up those photos.
The water was a little cold, but I quickly forgot about that when the trainer called over the dolphin we would be working with. She was called Kekaimalu, and was actually a wholphin, not a dolphin. She’s a hybrid of a bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale. Pretty cool, eh?
In the beginning, the trainer had us all line up in a row with our arms outstretched, an Kekaimalu swam by us, allowing us to run our hands along her. I was amazed by how smoothed her skin was. She also had the Kekaimalu demonstrate a few tricks, such as shaking her head yes or no. As Kekaimalu did so, she also let out plenty of noise. I’ve heard a dolphin sound before, but hearing it when she was right in front of me was pretty cool and always made me smile.
Then, the trainer asked for a volunteer, but didn’t say what for. Totally not afraid, I immediately raised my hand. Since I was the first, and only, to raise my hand, I was selected. It turns out, I had volunteered to be the first belly rider. Kekaimalu was going to swim upside down, with her belly towards the air, and I was going to be holding onto her flappers. The trainer had me swim out to about the middle of the pool and hold my right arm out with my left hand on my right shoulder. When Kekaimalu came around, I would grab onto her flipper with my outstretched arm, and as soon as I had a grip, I would grab the other flipper with my left hand, but I had to do it all pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the ride wasn’t as long as I would have liked, maybe only 10 seconds long, but was still an awesome experience. Who else can say that they got a belly ride from a dolphin?
A little bit later, it was my turn to get a kiss from the dolphin. Sometimes she was having people do it by themselves, and other people she helped out. I was one of the people who went by themselves. The trainer went down to one edge of the ledge we were standing on while I was close to the other end. I cupped my hands together on the surface of the water, and then the trainer sent Kekaimalu my way. Kekaimalu then rested her nose on my hands, and I lifted her out of the water, bringing her to my cheek, and then posed for the camera. Once the photographer took his photo, I turned and gave the dolphin a small little kiss. When I was done, the trainer gave me a small fish to feed to Kekaimalu for a job well done.
There were about eleven people in my group, so we all took turns doing belly rides and kisses. They alternated so that the dolphin didn’t get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Then they brought one of the other trainers over to help with the next activity, the dorsal fin ride.
When it was my turn, I swam out to the middle of the pool to the trainer that was lending a hand. Once I was ready, the main trainer sent Kekaimalu over to us. The trainer showed me how to place one hand on Kekaimalu’s dorsal fin, which is the fin on her back. I then put my other hand on one of her side flippers. Before we were ready, Kekaimalu started swimming, so he quickly had me let go. I had been holding on okay, but he didn’t want Kekaimalu taking off before he had told her to because it would take away from training consistency. Once again, they had Kekaimalu sent over to use and I gripped her dorsal fin and side flipper. This time, the trainer gave her a pat on the head, and then we were off. Once again, the ride was short, but an awesome one. I had to before to keep my head up to keep water out of my mouth, but otherwise I guarantee a huge smile would have been on my face.
Unfortunately, after the two kisses and two rides, it was time to say goodbye to Kekaimalu. We got to pet her one last time, and as we say goodbye, the trainer had her come by and wave her tail at us. It was a cool way to end the whole experience.
After I made it out of the pool, I dried off and then head to the grand stands so I could watch the dolphin show beginning at noon. Unlike the Dolphin Adventure package I had done, where people got to interact with the dolphins, the show was designed to showcase the many tricks they could do. Most of the tricks involved swimming in unusual ways or jumping high into the high. One of the dolphins even fetched a basketball! However, we couldn’t stay for the whole show, because it was soon time for my mom to check in for her Dolphin Encounter.
The Dolphin Encounter was very similar to the Dolphin Adventure package. There were more people who did the Dolphin Encounter as opposed to the Dolphin Adventure, so people were split into two groups, and they were also in a smaller back pool that was inaccessible to the public. In a similar manner, the participants, including my mom, were able to pet the dolphin and give it kisses. The one difference was that, instead of getting to ride the dolphin, they instead got to “play” with the dolphin. Participants would hold their arms up, and the dolphin would place their flippers against the participants hand, so it looked as if they were dancing together. It was a cute little show.
After my mom’s show was over, we decided to take time to actually explore the park we had already spent several hours at. we quickly learned that this was not like a zoo where you go to see all the animals on exhibit. While they did have some animals available for viewing, we came to realize that this park was very presentation based. If you weren’t watching the presentations, you quickly ran out of things to do. However, that didn’t stop us from getting in a last little bit of fun before we called it a day.
We found a caged area full of birds and quickly realized that we could not only enter the cage, but we could also feed the birds, all for free. Since it was free, we decided to head on in. In the middle of the cage was a big white bucket where we were able to get some bird feed. Then, we held the stick out close to the birds in hopes that they would eat it. I have to say, these birds were not afraid of people. Not only were they content to sit on your hand while they ate the bird food off the stick, I even had one land on my camera and try to eat the strap that went around my neck. Another lady even had a bird land on her cell phone. It was definitely an up close and personal experience.