Porpoises! (Plus, The Poop Deck)

 DSC00569Friday, July 12th.

The chartered bus headed to the Paradise Island Terminal arrives at our resort just after 12:30 p.m. – manned by a (sort-of) crusty driver.

(Aren’t they all? Cue “Bus Driver“.)

From the terminal, we take a nice 25-minute boat ride to Blue Lagoon Island (real name: Salt Cay).

We pass the Atlantis resort complex in its monstrous glory, as well as a couple of uninhabited cays, and a strip of massive mansions, fringed with rows of palm trees.

Once docked, we head to the complex’s main pavilion, where we receive a 10-minute orientation by one of the staff on dolphin basics. Then Christine and Jen get their lifejackets, while I mind their belongings.

The group is divided into groups, based on the numbers printed on their wristbands. DSC00574There are two platforms where excited dolphin-swimmers sit and wait for their fine-finned friends to appear.

Barely five minutes in, the skies open up and it just starts pouring. I quietly curse myself for not bringing a rainjacket, pick up all our bags and cameras, and run for cover.

The rain eases, and I lug all our things back down to the platform for a second try at snapping pictures. I get a few shots of Jen and Christine as they stroke the dolphins’ bellies, get playfully splashed, etc.

As the group prepares for their one-on-one time with the dolphins (dubbed “dolphin dates”), it starts pouring AGAIN.

DSC00581Back to the pavilion I go with all our things, and I try to get what pictures I can from my much-dryer vantage point. Jen and Christine hug and “kiss” the dolphins, get some vigorous hand/fin-shakes, and get to see other fun tricks.

Finally, the staff help set up for the final trick of the “dolphin encounter”: each participant swims out to a mark in the pool, floating on their tummies, while two dolphins swim from behind and push their beaks (or rostrums) against the person’s feet, propelling him or her upright – like jet-skiing, minus the motorboat and rope.

For everyone, the trick goes off without a hitch. Almost.

For some reason, when it’s Jen’s turn, one of the dolphins – named Stormy – starts acting up. So there’s a delay and Jen has to return to the platform until the dolphin’s ready to cooperate.

For Christine, this happens not once, but twice. When Christine’s first attempt fails, she allows one of the other participants have a turn; that person has no problems whatsoever.

After the second failure to launch, Stormy is sent back to a holding pen and a replacement porpoise – named Shawn – does what he’s told. It was neat to watch. It’s too bad my camera/smartphone video work doesn’t reflect the end result.

DSC00586It’s past 4 p.m. when we board the boat for the return trip back to the Paradise Island terminal, and we’re back at the resort by 5:30. And all that dolphin-swimmin’/watchin’ has left us STARVING.

We eventually decide to take a second run at The Poop Deck. But instead of walking, we take a taxi, with help from the resort’s security staff.

(The security guard, Mario, advises us against hailing a taxi off the street, on the off-chance that person isn’t legit and could easily rob us.)

DSC00605And the Poop Deck, it turns out, DOES exist. (In fact, if we had walked another five minutes the other evening, we would’ve hit paydirt. Oh, well.)

The restaurant’s enormous; we opt to sit outside on the huge, covered patio. The staff’s great, as is the food.

Getting a taxi back to the return is a minor challenge. The taxi driver gave us his number to call when we were ready to return, but the handwriting on the scrap of paper is so bad that the hostess can’t make it out. But it’s nothing the staff can’t handle, and they find someone else to help us out.

Back at the resort, it’s a quiet rest of the night for us, as we have some after-dinner drinks until Christine and I start nodding off in our seats, and we retreat for the night.