Wild Dolphin Encounters
Lessons in the the Art of Podding
When twenty-some relative strangers boarded a seaplane in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida en route to Bimini, Bahamas for a “swim with wild dolphins” retreat facilitated by a company named WildQuest, I was one of the fortunate adventurers. We came with varied reasons and expectations: fun, healing of various physical and emotional ailments, escape from the daily grind, and second honeymooning. I thought I was there just for the fun of it.
Venturing out on the 41-foot catamaran, The DolphinQuest, surrounded by endless turquoise waters, and snorkeling near pods of bottle-nosed and Atlantic Spotted dolphins was definitely fun. That first day, “This is so surreal,” was the constant comment. While, “No, this is real—this is Nature,” was the crew’s standard comeback. All eyes were focused on sighting dolphins and all attention was devoted to “oohing” and “ahhing” at their every move and sound. We could not disembark from the boat quickly enough when given the signal to get closer to the long-anticipated dolphins.
Experienced crew members offered their helping hands as needed, with knowing glimmers in their eyes…for they’d been privy to these magical unfoldings before. Amlas told dolphin stories to educate us about their ways. Tara adjusted snorkels and masks. Terri herded wayward swimmers back into the fold. Atmo led the way demonstrating how to mimic dolphin behavior. And Bob Marley and the Wailers’ soul-filled singing wafted from the boat, filling our ears between dives…”Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Upon returning to the dock and our home base, we happily performed our post-lunch clean-upduties, enjoyed a healthy dinner and then crew and guests gathered upstairs for a sacred circle exercise led by Amlas. Each person was encouraged to take a look within and share something from a little deeper than surface level, knowing we were in a safe place. Intentions, frustrations, hopes, fears, feelings and tears were shared. We met each other in a place of compassion and left the room that night feeling more like kindred spirits.
Throughout the next four days, we continued to share delectable meals, boat excursions, dolphin encounters, heart-to-heart conversations, morning yoga, meditations, Tibetan singing bowl sessions, healing exercises, clean-up duty, island outings, stories, hopes, fears, quiet time, tears, hugs, inspiring background music, sacred circles, suntan lotion and towels. Subtle transformations were taking place right and left.
On the fifth and last day on the boat, something was noticeably different—the energetic dynamic had shifted amongst our group. Everyone seemed more aware of each other, more sensitive, more loving. When the dolphin pods appeared we welcomed them but they didn’t rank above our newly formed/acknowledged human pod. We were not so quick to drop our conversations and switch our attention to the dolphins as we had been the first day. Now, when we swam alongside one another, we knew and appreciated each other, as well as the dolphins. And, somehow this air of togetherness, this “podliness,” seemed to be sensed by the dolphins as, at one point, the dolphins swam toward us instead of swimming away. It was as if they forgot for a moment and doubled back, swimming amongst us, as if we were all part of the same pod. Quite spectacular.
As we glided back home that day, nearing land, savoring our last moments aboard, we found ourselves dancing spontaneously to the tunes of Bob Marley, liquidly expressing our new-found feelings of freedom, bliss, gratitude and togetherness. “One love, one heart…let’s get together and feel alright.
In the course of five days’ time, our group of “strangers” learned to pod, or perhaps remembered how to instinctively form a pod. Somehow by experiencing the example of the dolphins, communing in the glorious surrounding Nature, and engaging in daily, open-hearted sharing and teamwork, we entered an ultimate, infinite heart-centered dimension in which leaps and bounds of healing can and did happen in the blink of an eye. In this place we reclaimed our will to live, re-opened our armored hearts, regained feeling and remembered what it is to truly live fully and openly.
By immersing ourselves in the “Bimini Triangle” we were somehow cleansed of the baggage we entered with and emerged with a renewed zest for life, love, living.
On the sixth day, the pod re-boarded the little seaplane and began the journey of dispersing each member back to homes in various corners of the world, with each committed to integrating the new aliveness into his daily life. And although the members of the pod were those who facilitated the experience, the biggest learning seems more in understanding the nature and act of podding, rather than dwelling on or clinging to specific pod members. We met each other in a place of openness and trust, which cannot help but beget love, and in so doing we transcended time and space to an ultimate dimension of heart… well beyond fun.
C. Michele Rose is an editor, writer and artist with Natural Awakenings Publishing Corp. in Naples, FL.
Special Bonus Gift
If you decide to book a trip, mention Natural Awakenings and receive a special bonus gift. Here is a message from Amlas McLeod, owner of WildQuest:
For Natural Awakenings readers booking with WildQuest we would like to offer a free DVD to be awarded to you at the end of your stay. Our professional photographer will be taking still shots during the week - both above and underwater - and compiling them on a DVD for you to take home. This beautiful DVD will contain not only a slide show of your week - usually around 350-400 photos - but also dolphin video footage in high definition. A beautiful keepsake to take home and share with your nearest and dearest, and to remind you of this incredible adventure of a lifetime.
To take advantage of this offer use the promotional code AWAKENINGS when you are making your booking. Offer valid until August 31, 2011 and subject to availability.